• Superstar chef Wolfgang Puck is at it again. As if his lines of restaurants, bistros, books, appliances, cookware, coffee and frozen pizzas weren’t enough, Puck is getting into the wine game. Two years in the works, Wolfgang Puck Wines are produced by Delicato Family Vineyards and include four California-designated varietals priced in the $30 to $35 range: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The debut releases are all from 2009. Puck wanted to make a line of wines that was food-friendly, varietally correct and affordable. “Everyone should be able to have good wine at an affordable price,” Puck said in a statement. “Wine completes any meal and sets the mood.” Puck’s wines are now available at most of his restaurants and catering venues, and they support a good cause dear to Puck’s heart as well. For each bottle sold, 50 cents is donated to the Keep Memory Alive Association, which raises money to support research to cure neurocognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and ALS. Puck, who lost his mother, Maria, to Alzheimer’s in 2004, has supported the organization from the beginning, when its inaugural dinner was held at Spago in 1996. Since then, Keep Memory Alive has raised nearly $100 million.
• Unfiltered loves a good shipwreck story, particularly when it involves 170-plus-year-old bottles of Veuve Cliquot and Juglar Champagne extracted from the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The bottles were claimed by the obscure Finnish Åland Islands, near where they were discovered, and were auctioned off by Acker, Merrall & Condit for just under $80,000 combined. The government of the Åland Islands partnered with Veuve Clicquot to fill out the June 3 sale with gems from the Champagne house’s corporate cellar. The auction took place in Åland's capital, Mariehamn, and was preceded by various dinners and Champagne-themed events (sadly, Captain Jack Sparrow couldn't be on hand to saber a few bottles and promote the new Pirates of the Caribbean film, despite Johnny Depp's well-documented love of wine). The salvaged bottles debuted with a minimum price of €10,000 (about $14,600) each, which quickly escalated as a bidding war between famed American Champagne collector Rob “Big Boy” Rosania and an anonymous bidder from Singapore pushed the price of the Veuve lot to a record $43,630. (The previous record was a 2008 sale of 1959 Dom Pérignon Brut Rosé from Rosania’s cellar.) The Juglar, a lesser-known and now defunct Champagne brand, went for $34,940; the anonymous Singaporean won both lots, to Rosania’s dismay. John Kapon, CEO of Acker, Merrall & Condit, was “overjoyed” with the day’s proceedings and told Unfiltered that he considered the event “a testament to the globalization of the fine-wine market,” as Åland is indeed “a remote region of the world. It just goes to show that the most discerning and passionate collectors will go wherever it takes to acquire the world’s greatest wines.” Perhaps, though the two key bidders of the evening, Bidder X and Rosania, dueled it out digitally via Internet and phone bids, respectively. Even the insanely wealthy aren’t going to pay those summer airfares for a flight to Finland, especially when you might come home empty-handed.
We're fairly certain a unicorn is going to walk into this grove at any second.
• "Buy a bottle, save a redwood" sounds like a pretty good salespitch to Unfiltered. Especially when you throw in a limited-edition signed print by nature photographer and conservationist Art Wolfe. That's the concept behind Sequoia Grove's new high-end Cabernet-based wine made from Rutherford and Oak Knoll grapes. Debuting with the 2007 vintage, Cambium (named for the layer of cells in plant life that leaves behind the annual ring in tree trunks) has a limited production of 350 cases and will be priced at $140 per bottle when released this September (pre-orders are currently available for $99); a portion of sales will be donated to the Sequoia Parks Foundation, which supports preservation and restoration initiatives in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Wolfe's signed prints—a photograph he took of the sequoia grove on the winery's property—will go to purchasers of the first 200 cases sold. Sequoia Grove president and winemaker Michael Trujillo says that Cambium will not be made every year, but there will be a 2008, for which landscape painter April Gornik is already creating the accompanying work of art.
• This past Wednesday four top New York chefs prepared four courses for the sixth annual Taste & Tribute Benefit in conjunction with the Tibetan Aid Project at the Arader Gallery. Missy Robbins of A Vocé started the meal with a crudo of wild salmon paired with Peju Province Sauvignon Blanc 2009. Second, Esporão Reserva White DOC 2009 was poured next to cured bacalao from chef George Mendes of Aldea. Café Boulud's Gavin Kaysen served caper-crusted lamb loin paired with Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 for the main course. A lime parfait dessert followed, prepared by Michael Laiskonis of Le Bernadin, served with a cup of Whispering Heaven Tea from TSalon & Coffee to reinvigorate guests for the live auction. It featured handcrafted Tibetan art, fine dining tasting menus with wine pairings, and travel packages ranging from a three-night stay in Morocco to a 10-day cruise in the Galapagos. A silent auction including private vineyard tours and VIP wine tastings also took place throughout the evening. All together, the benefit raised $27,000 for the Tibetan Aid Project, dedicated to preserving Tibet's cultural heritage, increasing literacy levels, creating higher-education opportunities for women and building libraries.