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Michelin's mistake, Mouton's new label and a shock-jock turns wine geek

Posted: February 2, 2005

  • Ooops. It's tough to review a restaurant that hasn't served a meal, but that's exactly what Europe's most prominent dining-guide publisher did this year. The 2005 Michelin guide to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg gave a Bib Gourmand designation (meaning excellent food at a reasonable price) to the Ostend Queen in Belgium, even though the restaurant didn't open until January, several weeks after the book went to the printer. A red-faced Michelin recalled the Red Guide after a Belgian newspaper discovered the error, but not before a firestorm erupted over how the rating got into the Benelux book. The owner of the seaside fish restaurant was quoted in Le Soir last week as saying he got into the guide due to his "good relations" with Michelin and because three-star Belgian chef Pierre Wynants is his consultant. The two later denied they struck any sort of deal with Michelin, but the publisher acknowledged that its standards weren't followed, which only adds fuel to the exposé published last year by a former inspector who raised questions about the integrity of Michelin's secretive inspection process. When a new Benelux guide is issued within two months, it's sure to be under close scrutiny.
  • Baroness Philippine de Rothschild chose Ilya Kabokov to design the artist label for the 2002 Château Mouton-Rothschild.
    Russian-born artist Ilya Kabakov joins the impressive list of artists who have designed labels for Château Mouton-Rothschild--including Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Andy Warhol and Keith Haring--as Baroness Philippine de Rothschild continues the tradition started by her father in 1945. Kabakov's spiraling sketch, titled Okho (Russian for "window"), will appear on the Bordeaux first-growth's 2002 bottling, which will retail for around $150 when released in the United States this fall. Kabakov, 71, known as a leader in the Soviet-era underground art culture, now lives in Long Island wine country in Mattituck, N.Y. His wife, Emilia, offers an interpretation of the drawing: "Behind the 'pane' of the bottle, the artist shows us another world: whirling to infinity, myriads of wings trace its outlines, at the same time bearing us off joyfully towards the realm of dreams and bliss, in a transparent allegory of the magic of great wine!"

  • Shock-jock Tom Leykis of the libidinous Tom Leykis Show has launched a new weekly radio program, called The Tasting Room, about fine wine, beer and spirits. But unlike his controversial weekday call-in show, the nationally syndicated Tasting Room is supposed to be as welcoming as, well, a glass of wine. While Leykis has made a name for himself giving men advice on how to score with women, he claims to be as serious about his knowledge of high-scoring wines, with an 800-bottle collection and a custom-built wine bar in his house to support his claim. Leykis plans to interview experts in the field, from vintners to stemware aficionados, and he will limit the time given to callers. Tasting Room debuted with a live broadcast on Jan. 29 in Los Angeles before airing in other cities. Although he was pleased with the response, Leykis has yet to find out if attracting his regular audience will be as easy when they discover the nice legs he's talking about belong to a fine Bordeaux.
  • At Montes' new feng shui-designed winery, water flows from the exterior into the heart of the facility, where a fountain concentrates the positive energy.
    It's not enough these days for a new winery to have all the latest technology. To help ensure wine quality, Viña Montes in Chile has built its new production facility in Apalta according to the principles of feng shui. Before construction began on the $6.5 million winery, the team gathered at the site, poured wine into ceremonial decanters, rang bells and prayed for success. The wine was then poured onto the ground "to enhance the soil's fertility by making the earth happy," says Silvia Galleguillos, the local feng shui expert hired by Montes. To optimize positive energy, pools of water at the entrance flow into the heart of the winery ("to bring prosperity towards it"), where a fountain sits beneath a circular skylight, connecting it to the cycles of heaven. Of course, when it comes to Montes' high-end Alpha M and Folly, the owners are also relying on methods such as computer-monitored presses and a gravity-flow system. Between Isaac Newton and the ancient Chinese, Montes should have all its bases covered.
  • Cliquot Inc. CEO Mireille Guiliano hit the New York Times bestseller list this week, reaching the No. 4 spot for advice and how-to books with French Women Don't Get Fat. The book, subtitled The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, shares French-born Guiliano's story of how she became overweight while an exchange student in the States and how she learned to lose the extra pounds without denying herself the joys of wine and fine cuisine. (Many of her favorite recipes are included.) Now living in New York, Guiliano helps herself stay slim, despite doing a lot of entertaining to promote Veuve Clicquot Champagne and other wines, by walking everywhere, even the stairs to her 15th-floor pied à terre.
  • Last October, Doug Wisor, the U.S.-born winemaker for Craggy Range Vineyards in New Zealand, was killed in a freak kite-surfing accident. Now as a tribute to the 31-year-old who had intended to make his life in Hawkes Bay, an annual scholarship has been created to bring a young American winemaker to New Zealand to work for a winery for a vintage. The first fundraiser for the Douglas Wisor Memorial Scholarship will be held Feb. 16 at St. Francis Winery in Santa Rosa, Calif., and is being sponsored by Craggy Range and Kobrand Corp. The event includes a dinner, auction and tasting of wines made by Wisor, who started out strong with Craggy Range's first U.S. release—the 90-point Sauvignon Blanc Martinborough Te Muna Road Vineyard 2002. Tickets can be purchased at www.kobrandwines.com or by calling (866) 562-7263.
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