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Twins' star Torii Hunter thanks the Royals with wine, a wine Marie Antoinette would have loved, a single-bottle cellar, a big cellar up for auction and Rocco DiSpirito gets on the bike

Posted: May 3, 2007

• We at Unfiltered feel like a little Dom is never a bad idea. Of course, if it meant a three-year suspension from our jobs, we might hesitate before popping those corks. Kansas City Royals DH Mike Sweeney recently returned to the locker room after a victory to discover four bottles of Dom Pérignon in his locker. They were a gift from Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter, who was making good on a promise made last year to reward the Royals for sweeping the Detroit Tigers at the end of the season and, consequently, securing the division championship for the Twins. Unfortunately for everyone involved, The Cheater's Guide to Baseball, a blog run by Derek Zumsteg, reported the gift to be in violation of Major League Baseball's rule 21-b, which basically prohibits players from offering members of other clubs any incentives based on past or future performances--and mandates that those found guilty be banned from baseball for no less than three years. When MLB commissioner Bud Selig got wind of it, he contacted the Twins, who hastily but politely asked the Royals, who were also on the hook for accepting the wine, to return the Dom. Apparently, the bottles are being returned (whether they're the same bottles or they've just been refilled with Sprite is a matter of conjecture), but we're really curious to know whether the players would have savored the pricey bubbly, or just sprayed it across the locker room.

• It's a taste of the glory days of French royalty. Sort of. Last year, the first vintage of wine was made from vines at Château de Versailles, one of France's most well known historic sites and the former home of Marie Antoinette and her husband, King Louis XVI. Versailles' managing director Christophe Tardieu said the planting of a small area of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon vines around the Queen's Trianon farm is a way of restoring its initial botanical vocation under the French monarchy. Among those who lent their time to the harvest and winemaking of Versailles' first offering were winemaker Jean-Louis Croquet and Francis Ford Coppola and his daughter, Sofia (who directed the 2006 film Marie Antoinette). The wine is a late-harvest rosé called Le Vin de Marie-Antoinette, which was pressed and matured at Château Thuerry in Provence. Tardieu said the entire production, a mere 100 bottles, is worth about $400,000. Unfortunately, even if you want to shell out $4,000 for a bottle, the entire production is being sold to a sole patron, with the proceeds going toward restoring the Trianon, the house on the palace grounds that Marie Antoinette spent much of her time in. Let's just hope the renovations don't spiral out of control, as they did under her watch. Her constant redecorating and landscaping were the first in a series of financial errors that led to the bankruptcy of the treasury … and the revolution … and her beheading.

The ultimate irony is if you store your Two-Buck Chuck in here.
• Just because you weren't born into money or failed to make financially savvy career choices in your youth, it doesn't mean you can't make a big show-offy statement with your wine collection. Especially if your "collection" is just one single, prized bottle. Produced by a Japanese company named DeviceStyle, the Angleshare single-bottle storage unit looks like one of those cryogenic or suspended animation machines on science-fiction TV shows. Done in sleek black and polished metal, it measures about 18 inches long, 5 1/2 inches deep and 7 inches high, so it will fit like a high-tech piece of art on any countertop. It has humidity controls and three temperature settings, but most importantly, it has a large glass cylinder cover to display the bottle in question. (The glass has ultraviolet protection, but of course.) The single-bottle cellar sells for about $400 so you'll have to choose that bottle wisely. Also be careful where you place the unit, since there's no mention in the specifications about an alarm to help ward off those late-in-the-party-I-feel-like-a-special-bottle tragedies that we all come to regret.

Krug Clos du Mesnil 1985 with truffled popcorn? Hot dogs with Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico 1968? Krispy Kreme donuts washed down with Château d'Yquem 1976? Why not? The late Steve Verlin would have wanted it that way, as he delighted in offbeat wine-and-food combinations as much as he was a stickler for provenance, condition and storage. The pairings were served after a dinner held in his honor at Manhattan's Veritas restaurant, where he was a partner, the week before Hart Davis Hart's May 4 and 5 auction in Chicago of 17,000 bottles from Verlin's collection (just a portion of his vast cellar). Attendees were served the Verlin-style pairings after a much more serious four-course meal paired with all the 1982 first-growths, plus Châteaus Cheval-Blanc, Pétrus and Lafleur from the 1982 vintage. The 1,876-lot collection, consigned by Verlin's gracious widow Grae, is estimated at $4 million to $6 million, which places it in the ranks of the top single-cellar offerings ever. It consists of a vast array of classic Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhône and Champagne in all formats. Not included in the consignment was a double magnum of the famed Château Cheval-Blanc 1947 (which averaged $45,410 in the first-quarter 2007 Wine Spectator Auction Index). Instead, it was served by Grae as a mystery wine at the meal's conclusion. Never was a guessing game so pleasurable.

Rocco DiSpirito has traded his toque for spandex.
• So what's the next logical move once you've been fired from your own television show, your Manhattan restaurants close and your radio show is discontinued after you drop an F-bomb on the air? If you're Rocco DiSpirito, you get back on the bike--and score a sponsorship deal in the process. DiSpirito, once the chef-owner of the acclaimed Union Pacific restaurant (and the less-than-acclaimed Rocco's on 22nd, the business that formed the stage set for reality TV show The Restaurant), has inked a promotional deal with Guru bikes as he prepares for his first Ironman triathlon. "The Ironman diet is the greatest ever," said DiSpirito, adding, "I have to eat about 5,000 [to] 6,000 calories per day during peak training. I eat anything and everything all the time." No word on whether Guru will create a custom sidecar for Rocco's TV-ready mama and her meatballs.

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