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A rosé takes on a safer name, resveratrol supplements from a guy whose names sets off alarm bells, wine at Jazz Fest, and a tale from Harvey Steiman's travels in Australia

Posted: April 25, 2007

• Though the United States and Australia share the same language, each country has plenty of idioms all its own--and, it turns out, a few phrases that have international meaning. Aussie winemaker Philip Shaw found this out when trying to come up with a clever name for his 2006 dry rosé, Pink Billy. Though the winery's Web site claims that the wine's original name was Silly Billy, the winemaker himself tells a different story. "It was originally called Pink Bits, because we'd let the reds run off a bit to get more concentration of flavor, and what was left were pink bits," he said. Shaw was also aware that the name was slang for certain body parts, but he didn't expect the joke to translate as well as it did in the States. Under pressure from his distributors, Shaw changed the wine's name to Pink Billy. Guess that means we'll have to call off the wine-naming contest we'd planned to run at the local all-boys junior high. …

• Even if the rest of New York City had written off the damp and chilly evening of April 18 as another notch on winter's belt, attendees of the American Cancer Society's Taste of Hope charity event paid the weather no mind. Inside the Puck Building, signs of spring were everywhere: ramps and sorrel garnished the plates, designer hemlines were up, and strappy high-heels were on. The youthful crowd sipped selections such as Hogue Riesling 2005 and Gloria Ferrer Pinot Noir Carneros 2003, while trendy Manhattan restaurants served bites from their upcoming spring menus. Riingo executive chef Jimmy Lappalainen took the opportunity to beta test a miso-cured salmon tataki dish that will make an appearance on his menus later this season, while Parea general manager Paul Zappoli plated a shellfish stew studded with razor clams. Landmarc chef Frank Proto, taking a break from opening week at the brand new Time Warner Center branch of his restaurant to serve goat cheese-stuffed profiteroles, offered some advice to the winter-weary: "Everyone rushes into a new season with ingredients as soon as they come on the market. But be patient. Ramps, asparagus--everything gets better as the season goes on." The event raised $85,000, a 30 percent increase over the previous year's total.

• From the moment scientists claimed there was gold in the hills of resveratrol, the red-wine compound that seems able to remedy all sorts of ailments, it was only a matter of time before resveratrol supplements started flying off the shelves of health-food stores--and more players got into the game. One of the first ventures into the new field of "red wine alternatives" is Resvinatrol Complete, a supplement that is meant to do all sorts of good things to you without getting you tipsy. "Taking Resvinatrol Complete once per day is an effective way for you to help your body protect itself against reactive oxygen, give your cardiovascular system a boost by helping to improve blood circulation, help reduce bad cholesterol (LDL), and even promote longevity," said Rich Guy (yes, that's actually his name), chairman and founder of Resvinatrol's producer, NFI Consumer Products. Guy added that he believes resveratrol's promise has been proven, but that, as scientists say, you won't get enough by drinking red wine. "To get the same amount of resveratrol by drinking wine as you do in a single serving of Resvinatrol Complete, you would have to consume at least 156 glasses," he said. Seeing as how the effectiveness of supplements is still speculative, we'll stick with wine. … Unfiltered is going to need a week or two to get through all 156 glasses, but we think we can manage.

Dr. John, The Rebirth Brass Band and ... Fetzer?
•While the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (aka Jazz Fest) is famous for offering six days of fantastic music, true disciples know half the reason to go is the food. Restaurants from throughout Louisiana compete for the right to open a booth selling their top dishes to hungry music fans. But the only options for washing down all that food have been water, soda and beer (and frozen café au lait ... mmm). Until now, that is. At this year's Fest, which begins Friday and runs April 27-29 and May 4-6, organizers plan to sell wine. "We're basically serving gourmet food in a fast-food setting," said Fest staffer Louis Edwards. "So why not offer wine?" Fest-goers will be able to enjoy mini-bottles of Fetzer Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon or cans of Niebaum-Coppola's Sofia Blanc de Blancs California with their alligator pie, crawfish strudel or pheasant-quail-andouille gumbo.

• On April 13, at a ceremony held in San Francisco, the French government awarded famed wine importer and merchant Kermit Lynch with the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor--an award created by Napoléon in 1805--for his work at exposing Americans to the joys of French wine. Previous recipients of the award have included Julia Child, Robert Mondavi and, for some strange reason, Clint Eastwood. For that alone we can't help but wonder if, when French Consul General Frédéric Desagneaux pinned the medal upon Lynch's chest, he asked him, "Do ya feel lucky? Do ya, punk?"

And now for a tidbit from Harvey Steiman's travels in Australia: When he became Penfolds winemaker several years ago, Peter Gago looked over the Magill Estate vineyard, the one that spills down the slope in front of the venerable Penfolds winery in Adelaide. He admired the old vines and the remarkable view of the city in the distance. Then his eyes fell on the drip irrigation conduits stretching from vine to vine. "Hang on," he said to the viticulturist. "Isn't this supposed to be a dry-grown vineyard?" Indeed, no one could remember the last time the drippers had been turned on. "Well, if it's supposed to be dry-grown, let's take the drippers out," he said. And so they did. Cut to 2007, with Australia experiencing its worst drought in 100 years. "The viticulturist came to me and said, 'These vines need some water or they will die.' I immediately thought what an idiot I had been to take out the irrigation." If it's any consolation, the viticulturist told Gago that the drippers had been unused for so long they probably would have been plugged up and not worked anyway. Penfolds trucked in water to give the vines some moisture. They survived the season, but produced only a quarter of a ton per acre.

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