Winemaking Soccer Star Andrea Pirlo Is Coming to America

Plus, Cal Ripken Jr. joins Napa's baseball wine club, and chef José Andrés is coming to New York—and ditching Donald Trump
Winemaking Soccer Star Andrea Pirlo Is Coming to America
Soccer star Andrea Pirlo is coming to New York, with or without his Italian wines. (Courtesy of Pratum Coller)
Jul 9, 2015

Part athlete, part philosopher, part vintner—professional soccer star Andrea Pirlo has reached myth status in Europe. Technically gifted but aesthetically driven, "l'Architetto" embodies the modern notion of the Renaissance man. This week, the 37-year-old confirmed his move to the United States to ply his footballing trade with fledgling Major League Soccer franchise New York City Football Club at Yankee Stadium.

In 2006, Pirlo was the orchestrator of Italy's World Cup final victory over France, cementing his status as a national hero. The following year he turned his attention to another Italian passion, winemaking, by purchasing Pratum Coller, a small winery just south of his hometown of Brescia in the Lombardy region. The winery has 15 acres of vines on the Montenetto plateau. The project is a family affair, with his father, Luigi, taking an active role. "Andrea's father closely follows the production and wanted to invest in the territory where he was born," winemaker Lorenzo Piva told Unfiltered. "Once the Pirlo family purchased the estate, their desire was to restore the original natural balance. To accomplish this we cultivate our vineyards through the principles of organic farming, safeguarding the biodiversity of the environment in which we work."

Pratum Coller produces five wines priced in the $15 to $30 range: a rosé, a white, two Sangiovese-based blends and a sweet wine made from dried Petit Manseng grapes, with a Pinot Noir soon to be added. The winery is planning a cellar expansion so that they can increase from their current production of about 2,000 cases a year. Piva says that Pirlo will remain active with the winery despite his move to New York. The real question for wine-loving NYCFC fans is whether or not any of Pirlo's bottlings will be imported along with him.


Cal Ripken Jr. Steps to the Grape

Napa Valley’s fantasy baseball team has added another star to its roster. Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., dubbed the Iron Man for not missing a single game in almost 17 years, is the latest player turned Napa vintner. He joins fellow Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, who started his own Napa winery, GTS, and former teammates and now Red Stitch partners Rich Aurilia and David Roberts.

Ripken played 21 seasons for the Baltimore Orioles, where he earned a World Series ring and a Golden Glove as shortstop. He is perhaps best known for surpassing all-time Yankees great Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of that feat, Ripken has teamed up with Axios winery in Napa Valley to make a 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine will be named 2131, after Ripken's record-breaking number of consecutive games. One-third of the profits from the wine will be donated to the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, which supports at-risk youth through baseball- and softball-related programs.

Ripken and Axios owner Gus Kalaris are longtime friends, and Kalaris is involved with the foundation. The two had been bouncing around fund-raising ideas when they decided to create a commemorative label. “We talked about a commercial brand for several years,” Kalaris told Unfiltered, adding that they are still playing with the idea. The Cabernet will be a limited run of 2,131 bottles and will be sold individually in wood-and-glass boxes retailing for $300. One hundred of the boxes will include a signed baseball for fans willing to pay a higher premium. The wine will be available through AxiosWine.com.


Chef José Andrés Ditches the Donald

Unfiltered favorite and Wine Spectator Wine Experience regular chef José Andrés announced this week that he is severing ties with reality TV star, real-estate magnate, Virginia winery owner and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. “Donald Trump’s recent statements disparaging immigrants make it impossible for my company and I to move forward with opening a successful Spanish restaurant in Trump International’s upcoming hotel in Washington, D.C.," Andrés told the Washington Post. "More than half of my team is Hispanic, as are many of our guests. And, as a proud Spanish immigrant and recently naturalized American citizen myself, I believe that every human being deserves respect, regardless of immigration status.”

Another Unfiltered favorite, chef Anthony Bourdain, tweeted his support, calling Andrés his hero, but Trump's son Donald Jr. took less kindly to Andrés' decision. "José has no right to terminate or otherwise abandon his obligations under the lease,” Trump Jr. wrote to the Post. “In the event Mr. Andrés defaults in the performance of his obligations, we will not hesitate to take legal action to recover all unpaid rent for the entire 10-year term together with all attorneys’ fees and additional damages we may sustain."

But fear not, Andrés fans: Word came this week from SBE Hospitality Group that the Bazaar by José Andrés restaurant will be coming to the new SLS New York hotel on Park Avenue, slated to open in summer 2016. Designer Philippe Starck will collaborate on the project. "I'm incredibly excited to bring our Bazaar concept to New York, where I started the U.S. chapter of my career 24 years ago and a city I've long wanted to return to," Andrés said in a statement. "The power and energy of New York are unlike anywhere else."

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