• Imagine if establishing a new winery, creating the product and getting international news outlets to pay attention were as easy as getting drunk in public, then typing a single sentence and hitting the “send” button on your social media platform of choice? Well, it is that easy, if you happen to be pop diva-turned-actress and soon to be wine label owner Mariah Carey. Earlier this month, Carey attracted a great deal of media attention for the loopy, lengthy acceptance speech she gave at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, after winning the breakthrough actress award for her role in the film Precious. She blamed her behavior on Champagne, which kept the news cycle going for a few more days, then took to her Twitter account to announce the 2010 release of her own rosé bubbly, Angel. Newspapers like New York’s Daily News and the UK’s Guardian took that news at face value, with Stuart Heritage of the Guardian going so far as to predict it will “taste like a bottle of sweat that's had an AA battery dropped in it.” What no one has seemed to notice is that Angel is a 13-year-old brand based in Reims whose bottles have recently begun to appear in popular music videos, including Carey’s—meaning that “her” Champagne brand will likely be little more than a simple licensing deal, á la the hordes of other wines “created” by musicians and bands. We’ll admit that her Champagne endorsement deal is at least better than the untrue reports of her investment in Mariah Zinfandel, but what really bothers Unfiltered is Carey’s reversal on Champagne, perhaps to the detriment of her singing career: In 2006, we reported that she didn’t drink the stuff, because it “hurts her throat.”
Arbor Crest's Cliff House, prior to December's fire.
• Perched 400 feet above the Spokane River and formerly known as Eagle’s Nest, the Cliff House has been the iconic home of Arbor Crest Wine Cellars for 25 years. Last month, an early-morning fire severely damaged the historic landmark, gutting the interior and destroying the European antiques inside. But fortunately, the house, visible for miles around and used lately for special events, was well-insured and the stucco exterior survived intact. Arbor Crest owners Harry and Marcia Mielke plan to restore the three-story Tuscan-style structure, built in 1924 by eccentric inventor Royal Newton Riblet, by the end of this year. “We have one of the most unique venues in Washington state,” said general manager Jim van Loben Sels, Arbor Crest’s general manager whose wife, Kristina, is the winemaker and the Mielkes’ daughter. “It’s the icon on our wine label, it’s important in our marketing, and it’s the signature piece of our estate.” Arbor Crest’s operations were barely interrupted by the Dec. 23 fire, apparently caused by an electrical malfunction. That’s because the tasting room, offices, and warehouse are housed in separate buildings on the 75-acre ridgetop property outside Spokane, while the production facility is in town. Arbor Crest is one of Washington’s largest family-owned wineries, producing 20,000 cases, mostly red Bordeaux blends. “This is a pretty significant hit for the family, but we’re committed to bringing this monument back for us and the community,” van Loben Sels said.
In the past two weeks, Unfiltered has been touched by the generosity of people and nations around the world who have offered a helping hand to those affected by the tragic earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12 and the continued aftershocks that have continued to plague the Caribbean nation ever since. We’ve been particularly impressed with the efforts made by many in the wine and food industries, and would like to bring them to your attention this week. We couldn't possibly name all of the wine- and food-industry Haiti benefits happening this month; we welcome you to add any charitable events we’ve omitted in the comments, below.
• Proceeds collected this past weekend from St. Francis Winery’s tasting room are being donated to the American Red Cross. Said CEO Christopher Silva, “We're thousands of miles away in the safety and serenity of Sonoma while others are suffering. St. Francis Winery supports those who are on the front line.”
• Napa winery Sequoia Grove has also pledged all the money from last weekend’s tasting room charges to charity. Sequoia’s funds will go to the American Red Cross as well. President Michael Trujillo declared that “it's our responsibility as an industry to support this effort. How can you not when you see the magnitude of human suffering?”
• Half of the Domaine Carneros’ earnings from its tastings last weekend—more than $3,800—will be given to the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. “Our hearts are with the people in Haiti who are suffering,” said Domaine Carneros’ Eileen Crane.
• Ceja Vineyards is donating 15 percent of all online purchases from now until Jan. 31 to the American Red Cross Haiti relief effort. Said Dalia Ceja, director of sales and marketing at the winery, the response has been good. “Just yesterday we got about 15 orders immediately [following the announcement].”
• Unfiltered got into the action too, stopping by Chambers Street Wines in New York for a benefit tasting last Saturday night. Over the course of three hours, hundreds of people descended upon the shop (the line was out the door!), raising $7,500 for Partners in Health, an organization providing medical assistance to earthquake victims. Chambers Street teamed up with distributors Louis/Dressner, Polaner and Michael Skurnik to host the event that featured 15 wine selections.
• New York’s Hearth restaurant went into fund-raising mode this week as well, pledging to donate half of its revenues from Tuesday evening's patronage to relief efforts in Haiti. The restaurant raised over $7,700 for Partners in Health. The disaster has been especially trying for Hearth, as one staff member has family living in the afflicted country.
• Also in New York, chef Michael White's three Italian restaurants, including Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning Alto, will be donating 10 percent of all proceeds from Monday, Jan. 25, to aid for Haiti. The proceeds from Alto, Convivio and Marea will go to the United Nations World Food Program, the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger, which has already provided millions of meals to victims in Haiti. Carolyn DeFir, general manager of Convivio, was instrumental in coordinating efforts, after seeing a guest's angst over the disaster. "We discussed the need to do something as a group," DeFir said. "This was really driven home for us when one of our regulars stopped in for a meal and just began weeping. She told us she used to live in Haiti and was just heartbroken over all that was happening there."
• Additionally, more than 40 New York restaurants have banded together for Dine Out for Haiti. Each restaurant will donate up to 10 percent of their proceeds received on Sunday, Jan. 24, or Monday, Jan. 25, toward earthquake relief efforts by Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health and Action Against Hunger. Dine Out for Haiti brings together outposts from heralded chef Mario Batali and restaurateur Danny Meyer, among others, including Wine Spectator Grand Award winners Del Posto, Tribeca Grill and Cru.