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The "why didn't I think of that?" wine glass, Nintendo's new wine game, the "glad I didn't think of that" t-shirt, music from Karl Wente and Rosenblum's dog cause

Posted: September 26, 2007

• For anyone who routinely forgets to bring the corkscrew to the picnic, UK company Al Fresco Wines has your problems solved. This summer, the company released the Tulipak, a sanitary, biodegradable, shatterproof plastic glass, heat-sealed with foil, and filled with 6.3 fl. oz of South Australian Chardonnay, Shiraz, or off-dry rosé under the Trencherman label. Al Fresco claims to have spent £500,000 (about $1 million) developing the product after trying to conceive of a way for caterers of outdoor events to serve wine without the trouble of managing bottles, controlling portions and handling glasses. The wines come from Salena Estate in the Murray River region of Australia, an area mainly known for producing bulk wines. We wouldn't rush to call this plonk in plastic since we haven't tried it, but we very much like the idea that you can drop it, carry it upside down, or just punch a straw through the foil if you want to look super classy. Two foil-sealed glasses sell for about $7 and can be purchased in packs at supermarkets or at select sporting events around the UK. "Don't handle with care" is the company's logo, so we won't be surprised if their next product is a prepackaged Irish Car Bomb: a shot of whiskey sitting at the bottom of a plastic pint.

• Jump, kick and punch may be replaced by sniff, swirl and spit if a new Nintendo game devoted to wine becomes a best-seller. "Beginners Wine DS" goes on sale in Japan on Nov. 15, just in time for the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau. Calling this a video game is perhaps stretching it, though. Mario and Luigi are nowhere to be found, sucking down a glass of Chianti or two before taking on Donkey Kong. Nintendo is aiming for a new, older audience with a line of software for its DS handheld console that includes applications like brain quizzes, recipe indexes and virtual pets. Developed by Tokyo-based Square Enix Co., "Beginners Wine DS" has a database of more than 100 wines, a glossary and wine-knowledge quiz and more. The company even has another new game in the works, called "Bartender DS." We're not sure what this game entails, but if it ultimately leads to a computer that can shake up a decent martini, we're all for it.

Say it out loud if you don't get it.
• Attention New Yorkers: There's a new way to show your dual allegiances to wine as well as your home town. True Fabrications, somewhat incongruously located in Seattle, has devised a line of t-shirts and wine gift bags that may make you do a double take. The company's sales and marketing assistant Henri Schock explained the inspiration, saying, "We said to ourselves, why wouldn't you want to wear a t-shirt that says 'I love wine'?" Sure, we can agree with that. There are just plenty of times when you shouldn't wear the shirt. Such as when you're driving. Or performing surgery. Or attending your child's parent-teacher conference. Or at a meeting of the International Dyslexia Association, in which case the meaning would be completely lost, and all the New Yorkers in attendance would be told how clever their t-shirts are.

Winemaker Karl Wente as DJ.
• For more than 20 years, Wente Vineyards in California's Livermore Valley has had close ties to the music scene, last year teaming up with the band Foreigner for a series of concerts and tastings. Wente is back at it again this year, and we're liking the new approach a bit better. In October, fifth-generation winemaker Karl Wente will launch a new program called "Discover the Wine, Discover the Music," in which neck tags on Wente's bottles will offer the winemaker's notes about certain recording artists, as well as information for free song downloads. Wente said, "We listened to dozens of breaking artists to narrow down the field to our favorites," which include Jesse Dayton & Brennen Leigh, Talib Kweli, Hopewell, The Bellrays, Under the Influence of Giants and Bitter:Sweet. It may sound like a bit of a random mix, but it turns out that diversity of taste and style is the norm at Wente, especially for the music played at the winery during harvest. "In the lab, we rotate who controls what's playing—you never know if you will get Coltrane's 'Blue Note' or the Stones or Robert Earl Keen," said Wente. By the crusher, it's alt rock, and in the small-lot winery, where Wente makes its Nth Degree wines, it's Latin jazz and funk. We can only wonder if the guys who make the winery's Riverbank Riesling listen to obscure German polka, but we guess we'll find out this spring, when Wente adds six more artists to the program.

• Yet another reason to like Rosenblum. The winery's proprietors, Kent and Kathy Rosenblum, have joined the trend of vintners using their wines to benefit their favorite charity for those on four legs. Starting this year, $6 from the sale of each case of Rosenblum's Chateau La Paws wines benefits Paws with a Cause, a national organization that provides assistance dogs to people with disabilities. Sales of Chateau La Paws Côte Du Bone Roan California ($14), a Syrah blend, and Chateau La Paws Côte Du Bone Blanc California, a Viognier blend ($14), have thus far generated $21,378 for Paws with a Cause. Although the wine's name seems tailor-made for the charity, the Chateau La Paws name was in existence long before any charity connection was made. Rosenblum began making the wine in the '90s after Kent and Kathy took a trip to La Paz (pronounced "la paws"), Mexico. "We were joking around about putting paws on a [wine] label and calling it La Paws as a fun tie-in to [my veterinary background]" said Kent. That "paws" pun morphed into two wines, which now have a combined production of about 11,000 cases.

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