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Tidbits from Wine Experience, riding to the tasting room in style, the scariest grape on earth and daytime soap stars manage to eat something

Posted: October 31, 2007

Before we get into regularly scheduled Unfiltered, a few highlights from this past weekend's New York Wine Experience:

• Some people wear their emotions on their sleeves. Others, not so much. Proud Wine Warrior and New York Wine Experience attendee Marc Hagan of Seattle happily wore a Wine Warriors temporary tattoo on the back of his head at the California Lunch prepared by Michael Mina. We always say, better to wake up with a temporary tattoo after two nights of Grand Tastings rather than a real one.

• If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Unfiltered tried to catch up behind the scenes in the kitchen with celebrity chefs Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, Charlie Trotter and Wolfgang Puck backstage before their Four Chefs seminar. In years past, we caught them engaged in competitive banter and intense plating. This year, however, they were all relaxed, swapping stories about their families. They were polite enough to pause for a few photos, but warned Unfiltered to give them this moment to themselves. "We find pieces of art directors in our stool," Batali warned. Yikes.

• 19.57 years. That's the average tenure for the seven Wine Spectator senior editors who have tasting beats for the magazine. Introducing the senior editors at the blind-tasting seminar, editor and publisher Marvin R. Shanken proudly had each of them say how long they've worked for the magazine. "You've got to admit, they're pretty good sports to be here ... not that they had a choice," said Shanken. So no retirement plans in the works for any of them, obviously.

• At the final seminar, the 1997 Italian Tasting, Lamberto Frescobaldi, technical manager of the Frescobaldi family wineries, was the only non-female winemaker or winery owner on the panel. Therefore, moderator James Suckling, Wine Spectator's European bureau chief, presented a rather gaudy blonde wig to Frescobaldi to kick things off. "Lamberto's the only guy on the panel and I don't want him to get a complex," quipped Suckling. Sadly, Frescobaldi shed his wig by the time it came his turn to present his wine.

$7 million lawn ornaments.

• This October, Domaine Chandon may have found the perfect lawn decoration, and it doesn't involve pumpkins, fake skeletons or cardboard RIP gravestones. It's 21 Ferrari 250 GTOs, which were parked on the grass outside restaurant Étoile for a three-course lunch on Oct. 23, as part of the Moët & Chandon GTO tour, celebrating the 45th anniversary of the car's creation. Owners of 21 of the 36 GTO models ever made shipped their sports cars to Napa Valley from as far away as Asia, Britain, Mexico and other parts of the United States for the four-day event. Jean Berchon, car collector and vice president of Moët & Chandon, helped to organize the event at Domaine Chandon, where the group enjoyed food and sparkling wine pairings by chef Christopher Manning. Attendees included Bill Harlan of Harlan Estate and Christian Moueix of Dominus. The tour also included dinners at Meadowood and the French Laundry, and even a spin around the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma County. The event takes place every five years, but if you want to participate next time around, we suggest you start saving. GTOs sell for upwards of $7 million.

• Just when you thought it was safe to order a drink after midnight …. In an effort to sell more Carignan wines, Languedoc producers are encouraging local restaurants and wine stores to promote the variety from Halloween through the first two weeks of November under a program they're calling "The Grape That Scared Me." John Bojanowski, spokesperson for Carignan Renaissance, a Languedoc-based association uniting over 120 estates making Carignan wines in a dozen countries, said that Carignan's image makes it the perfect bogey man. "Multiply the so much bad that has been said about it by the sheer volume still planted and you get a scary quotient that beats all other grapes by a long shot. No other grape has a reputation so out of whack with its actual qualities or so in need of a renaissance than Carignan," he said. The hope is that people will develop a taste for Carignan and keep it right through Beaujolais Nouveau's release in the middle of the month. "We invite wine bars around the world to throw off the shackles of the Beaujolais Nouveau and to celebrate Z'Old Carignan is back!" said Bojanowski. Now it's not so much the grape that's scaring us ....

• Daytime Emmy winner Susan Lucci (All My Children's Erica Kane) and Kassie DePaiva (One Life to Live's Blair Cramer) upped the star-power ante at the 15th annual Feast with Famous Faces in New York on Oct. 22. The Wine Spectator-sponsored walk-around tasting, which featured soap stars passing small plates from high-end New York restaurants, benefited the League for the Hard of Hearing. Guests could sample offerings from hotspots such as Butter and Anthos and also had the chance to compare tasting notes with their favorite daytime TV actors. After a few laps around the packed aisles, Trevor St. John (One Life to Live's Todd Manning) had determined his favorite: He had the business card for Mediterranean restaurant Pera stored in his coat pocket. Colin Egglesfield (All My Children's Joshua Madden) arrived late, but was quickly en route to taste Japanese-by-way-of-Sweden bites at Midtown restaurant Riingo's table. He was with his companion, Swedish supermodel Madeleine Blomberg. Yes, the beautiful people do eat once in a while.

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