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Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock try a Threesome (we mean the wine), Arnold beats up on Zin, Mariah and K-Fed still love Cristal, but Elvis goes for California "Champagne"

Posted: August 30, 2006

• Sleepy Hollister, Calif., isn't exactly a celeb magnet. In fact, visitors to Léal winery on Aug. 18 didn't expect to see anyone more famous than members of the local rock band Vent, which was performing at the winery's summer concert series. But that all changed when Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson showed up. The couple--who brought along professional volleyball player/model Gabrielle Reece and her surfer husband, Laird Hamilton--planned to exchange vows at the winery, yet another stop on their multi-destination wedding blitz, reports the Hollister Free Lance. But they merely indulged in a private 90-minute tasting, sampling the winery's "whole lineup," according to owner Frank Léal--from the Godsend Cabernet Sauvignon and Carnavál Bordeaux-style blend to Pinot Noir and Threesome (Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre). "I think Kid's favorite was probably the bigger styles, the Syrah and Godsend," says Léal. "He was smoking a cigar so he kept going for those." Kid Rock--a wine connoisseur? Perhaps. "That's kind of hard to say--they definitely knew what they liked and what they enjoyed." In fact, the buzz is that the couple was in town to discuss business ventures with Léal. But the 35-year-old vintner, whose motto is "Phat wines--no pretense" is staying mum. "I can't really go into that one ... nothing is concrete." Deal or no deal, the newlyweds liked what they tried--they took a six-pack of Pinot Noir, Merlot, Threesome, Syrah, Carnavál and Godsend home with them on the plane.

Hasta la vista: The governor terminates Zinfandel's chance to become California's historic grape.
• You would think Zinfandel is Arnold Schwarzenegger's kind of wine. It's big and brawny, with pumped-up alcohol levels that routinely surge above 16 percent. But the California governor vetoed a bill on Monday that would have designated Zinfandel as the state's "historic wine." The Governator is running for reelection this November, and the first rule of politics is to avoid unnecessarily offending any voters, even if they prefer gentler grapes, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Viognier. "To name only one of the many varietals produced in California as the historic wine fails to recognize the many world-class varietals produced in the state," Schwarzenegger stated in his veto message, posted on the governor's Web site. "Californians should be proud of all our 'California Grown' agricultural products …. Singling one out in special recognition would be inappropriate." Who would have expected such sensitivity from him? The bill's sponsor, state Senator Carole Migden, a Democrat representing the San Francisco Bay area, is taking the high road and will not mock the governor as a lover of wimpy wines. She does plan, however, to reintroduce the bill next year. "While we were crushed by the veto, the governor will find no sour grapes in our office. Next year we will press on," said Migden. In other words, she'll be back.

• Speaking of high-alcohol Zin, many people think that wines have been getting stronger overall, with more creeping toward the 17 percent alcohol mark. Think again. It turns out that today's Americans are drinking weaker wine than their parents. Wines sold in America, on average, contain less alcohol now than back in the 1950s, according to new research, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. The study used several methods to estimate the alcohol by volume in beverages, from examining the labels of wines in California to looking over records of spirits sales in Pennsylvania. And the researchers found that the average level of alcohol in wine steadily declined from 17 percent in 1950 to a low of 10.5 percent in 1990, then crept up slightly to 11 percent in 2002. The explanation? Fortified wines were included in the averages, and consumption of those alcohol-enriched wines has fallen considerably in the last 40 years. Unfiltered doesn't like to see the United States slipping on any front, so in an effort to get our national average back up, we think Arnold should reconsider the Zinfandel bill.

• Chicago's citywide ban on serving foie gras in restaurants isn't going down easy. On Aug. 22, the Illinois Restaurant Association and Allen's New American Café filed a lawsuit claiming that the ban, approved by the city council in April, violates the state constitution. According to the plaintiffs' attorney, Barry Rosen of Chicago firm Sachnoff & Weaver, the issue is the appropriate limit of local authority: "The ordinance is intended to protect the welfare of animals. But local governments are empowered under the Illinois constitution to deal only with local problems, and all the foie gras sold in Chicago is produced in other states and countries. Therefore [the Chicago City Council] doesn't have the authority to enact this ordinance." Allen Sternweiler, chef and co-owner of Allen's New American Café, says foie gras sales in Chicago restaurants last year accounted for an estimated $5.5 million. And that figure doesn't even include the lost revenue from the accompanying glass of late-harvest wine. "No one orders a glass of dessert wine with an arugula salad," he noted.

• Never mind Jay-Z's call for hip-hoppers to boycott Cristal. The prestige sparkler still has die-hard celebrity fans in the music world. According to the English tabloid the Mirror, Mariah Carey spent nearly $60,000 on Cristal for a private party with her family and friends at her show last week in New York. The diva herself, however, prefers to drink Pinot Grigio, as Champagne hurts her throat. And Kevin Federline, perhaps better known as Mr. Britney Spears, drops the C-bomb in his debut release, "Lose Control," where he raps that he will fly his whole crew to Miami while "popping Cris like we won the Grammies." We don't see a reason for him to wait either.

With a name like this, how can you not spray this sparkler?
• If Cristal isn't in your price range, you can get celebrity cachet with Swivel Hips' new selection. Elvis may have left the building, but you can party with him in the form of a new bubbly inspired by one of the King's classic songs: All Shook Up, complete with a gold Elvis gyrating on the label. Craving the right fizz to accompany a fried banana-and-peanut butter sandwich? The $13 Brut, a non-vintage California Champagne made in the charmat method from Mendocino and Woodbridge grapes, should do it. The bubbly is the latest release from Graceland Cellars, which has been channeling the King's spirit into Blue Christmas Cabernet, Jailhouse Red Merlot and Blue Suede Chardonnay. Good grief, where will it end? Viva Las Vegas Viognier? Love Me Tempranillo? Our hands are shaky, and our knees are weak. We're all shook up over the possibilities.

• If you can't lead young adults to a wine tasting, bring the wine tasting to them. Solaris, Moon Mountain and Dynamite did just that as they hit the road this summer with new recording artists MoZella, Sierra Swan and Elan for the Uncorked and Unplugged tour--a 24-date concert engagement that crisscrossed the United States. Targeting twenty-somethings unlikely to spend their precious concert-going hours at a wine tasting but who aren't inspired by beverage choices at more traditional gigs, the roving wineries poured free samples for concertgoers. In case fans missed a song or three while checking out the merchandise in the wine tent, the wineries and record labels took co-branding a step further and provided the codes for free music downloads on the bottle-neck labels of some wines. The two remaining dates are Aug. 31 in Houston and Sept. 3 in Tucson, Ariz., for those of you who think the perfect match for a Zin is your iPod.

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