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Nude Napa winemakers, more athletes get wine labels for charity, a Veuve Clicquot bottle that'll cost you, wine at the U.S. Open and a true taste of terroir

Posted: September 5, 2007

• Remember the group of Bordeaux vintners who released a nude calendar a few years ago to promote their wines? At least one person did: Al Wagner, vineyard manager for Clos Du Val in Napa Valley. And it inspired him to create his own calendar to benefit the Napa County Farm Bureau (NCFB), a nonprofit organization that helps preserve Napa Valley's agricultural land. The 2008 calendar, dubbed "Napa Uncovered" (or "nu" for short, literally "nude" in French), features 13 male members of the NCFB, representing wineries including Chappellet, Hall, Hanna, Grgich Hills, Honig, Grace Family and Regusci. Although none of the models, who were photographed at their respective wineries, stripped down to their birthday suits, the photos leave little to the imagination. And despite the revealing nature of the pictures, it was relatively easy to get volunteers. "In the beginning, everyone thought it was a big joke," said Wagner. "And then once we started getting into the project, others jumped on board." So far, the calendar has generated enough buzz to inspire talk of publishing a "nu" calendar annually. The $18 calendar will be officially released in October, along with select autographed copies for $36, and is currently available for presale at napafarmbureau.org. So if farmers' tans are your thing, here's your golden opportunity to spice up your planner.

• The NFL kicks off its season Thursday night, but fans need not settle for beer if they'd prefer wine. New Orleans Saints lovers will soon be able to sip their own wines while yelling, "Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?" Quarterback Drew Brees and former quarterback Bobby Hebert have partnered with Charity Hop, a sports marketing firm, to release Vintage Brees Chardonnay and Cajun Cannon Cabernet. The wines will hit stores in November and proceeds will go to Brees' charity for kids impacted by Hurricane Katrina and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of New Orleans. Charity Hop worked with VinLozano Imports, a Massachusetts wine importer, to create the wines. In May, the two companies released three wines with Boston Red Sox players and they recently released charity wines with former Boston Bruins stars Cam Neely and Ray Bourque (NHL collective bargaining prohibits active players from endorsing wine). Marketing director Brett Rudy said wines with other top athletes in various towns are in the works. So once they run through all the major sports, we can probably expect wines from the stars of bass fishing, curling and bull riding.

Champagne, leather and gold: A good party, but it'll cost you.
• It's that time again: Like clockwork it seems, Champagne producers engage in a game of one-upsmanship for the most lavish product. This month's winner, Veuve Clicquot with its new Yellowboam Jeroboam. This is no ordinary 3-liter bottle, however. Created to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the yellow label, Veuve created 3,600 handmade, numbered bottles, each with a leather label and topped with a 22.4-carat gold foil. A bottle will run you $2,000, which comes out to about $100 per glass should you happen to decide this is your Champagne of choice for that ultraspecial occasion. And hey, Veuve will take back the leather label and transform it into a cardholder for you. But Unfiltered had some different ideas in mind. For starters, if purchased for a wedding, the groom could have the gold foil reworked into a necklace, complete with the 24-carat gold-plated cap from the bottle as a medallion, to give to his wife the very first time he comes home late or forgets her birthday. And the bride can have the leather label turned into a whip for use every day thereafter.

• Unfiltered made a couple of visits to the U.S. Open last week, and one particular trip to the concession stand saw people purchasing Echelon wines by the glass. Apparently, wine is playing a much bigger role at this year's Open than we realized. According to a Bloomberg story this week, the U.S. Open has about 100 different wine offerings this year at the restaurants and in the luxury suites in Arthur Ashe Stadium, as well as at other concession areas of the National Tennis Center. Want a bottle of Quintessa? No problem. Care for a magnum of Dom Pérignon in your $20,000 luxury suite? Why, just sign here, sir. Unfiltered, however, was sitting up in the nosebleed seats, enjoying a $7 Heineken. Which we would have "accidentally spilled" into the luxury box of loud, obnoxious James Blake fans if we'd been sitting on that side of the stadium.

• If your idea of a perfect tasting note includes adjectives like "earthy," "loamy" and "stony," then San Francisco-based painter and installation artist Laura Parker has a tasting for you. Her latest agriculture-centered project is a series of soil "tastings," in which gallery goers sniff and swirl dampened soil in wine glasses and then taste food grown from the corresponding plots. One of the more successful pairings, according to Parker, was a Preston Vineyards Carignane grape alongside the West Dry Creek soil it was grown in compared to a Pug's Leap cheese from the milk of goats that roamed the more hilly soil in neighboring Healdsburg. She insists that she can taste "the minerally character" of the creek bed in the grapes—a flavor that, for her, doesn't extend to the cheese. Parker welcomes the believer and the skeptic alike: Her goal is to make people aware of "where things come from, appreciating that place and then knowing that things were grown from that place." Whatever. Still sounds like it could just as easily be summed up as sniffing dirt. The next tasting event takes place at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary in San Francisco on Sept. 7.

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