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Top Chef Turns for Emeril and Terlato

Plus, Dr. Loosen's extra-late eiswein harvest in Germany's Mosel, and another wine thief is safely behind bars

Posted: March 1, 2012

• The latest season of Unfiltered's favorite reality cooking competition came to a close last night with the finale of Top Chef: Texas on Bravo. All the familiar faces were there—hosts Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi front and center—along with some Wine Spectator favorites, chef Emeril Lagasse and Terlato Wines president and CEO Bill Terlato, who served as guest judges. Always full of twists, the final competition of the Texas-centric Season 9 took place in the first city Unfiltered thinks of when it comes to barbecue and Southern cuisine … Vancouver, British Columbia! ('Cue crickets.) Chef finalists Sarah Grueneberg and Paul Qui squared off cooking in two of Vancouver's top restaurants, Black and Blue, and Coast, respectively. Top Chef fans know this wasn't Terlato's first rodeo: Terlato wines have been provided for the show for the past seven seasons, portions of the 2009 finale were filmed at Terlato's Chimney Rock and Rutherford Hill wineries, and this was Bill's third time appearing in the season finale. Despite the limitations of getting all the wines Terlato would have liked into Canada, there was plenty of Terlato Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay, Chimney Rock Cabernet, Rutherford Hill Merlot and Sanford Pinot Noir to pair with the various offerings. "The squid-ink pasta course that Sarah made may be one of the greatest dishes that I ever ate," Terlato told Unfiltered. "It was remarkable." Chef Qui got the nod in the end, however, in a "split decision" that Terlato said could have gone either way. And there was one drink he found wanting. "Had I known about Paul's menu development, I would have served our Shimizu-no-mai sake," Terlato said. "That would have been perfect with one of his courses." Unfiltered suspects he'll have another crack at nailing the pairings next season.

• Did Germany's Mosel region just have its latest late harvest ever? This year, the region got a freak frost at the end of January—the first of the winter—and in Riesling country, frost means ice wine. "If it doesn't freeze, we lose these grapes, so we had pretty much given up on it," Kirk Wille of Dr. Loosen told Unfiltered. Ice wine harvest usually happens before the new year, in December, but this year, the picking at Loosen didn't finish until Feb. 2. As it happened, Ernst Loosen was in Australia at the time, where the Riesling harvest for the 2012 vintage started the same day it ended for 2011 in the Mosel. "It was totally crazy, we'd never seen anything like that before," said Wille, who estimated that it must have been the latest harvest in Europe. Because of an early budbreak and mild conditions throughout the growing season, the harvest at Loosen began about four weeks earlier than usual, on Sept. 22, meaning that it took a whopping four months to pluck all the vines this year, certainly the longest harvest slog the estate has ever seen. Riesling grapes are tenacious hangers-on, but Wille was "surprised" that some were still clinging come February. Clusters are also protected from rot and birds by plastic sheeting, which handily catches grapes as they fall, so these too were still viable for ice wine. Since most pickers are itinerant immigrant workers during the regular season, they were (and usually are) long gone by the time of the ice wine harvest. "So all the people in the office and the warehouse and the bottling line have to get out there at three in the morning and pick the stuff." As if that weren't enough, the hapless harvesters couldn't press the grapes in the 7° F freeze. The press had to be moved indoors to coax any juice out. And then a final snag: What vintage is this wine, anyway? The German convention is to call it 2011, alongside its less stubborn peers. Is it possible to have two vintages of ice wine from the same year? Only in (North) America! In the U.S. and Canada, a January/February ice wine harvest is tagged with the new year. (Click the thumbnails below to view full-size images from Dr. Loosen's extra late harvest.)

Photograph courtesy of Dr. Loosen Photograph courtesy of Dr. Loosen Photograph courtesy of Dr. Loosen

• This week's wine criminal is guilty of ignoring the cardinal rule of the ingestibles business: Don't get high on your own supply. Unfortunately, Moët Hennessy brand manager Romain Brunot allegedly couldn't resist the allure of all those bottles of Krug Champagne and Belvedere vodka lying around. (Could you?) The London-based Krug rep supplied the bubbly to famous clients like the Dorchester Hotel and the Fat Duck; a judge in England convicted Brunot of absconding with the leftover bottles from such events, as someone was always mistakenly ordering too many, and diverting them to a warehouse rented under a fake name. Brunot also placed orders for the sauce from a wine merchant to Moët; these also were diverted to Brunot's personal stash. Over four years, the Krug thug socked away 400 bottles each of Champagne and vodka, valued at $120,000. Brunot will now spend the next 15 months in prison, during which he can learn the méthode incarcération of sparkling wine (the primary fermentation occurs in the toilet, traditionnelle slammer style, but the wine is moved to a shoe for the secondary fermentation).

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