• Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Basinger, Meg Ryan, Paul Newman—through the years, Spanish wine producer Freixenet has featured a number of high-profile American entertainers in its year-end advertising campaigns. This year, however, they've decided to employ high-wattage talent from behind the camera—and beyond the grave. "The Key to Reserva," a 9-minute short film that can be seen on the Freixenet website, was directed by Oscar winner Martin Scorsese. The film is an homage to the cinematic visual style of Alfred Hitchcock, and the story, centered on a locked box that contains a bottle of Freixenet Cava Carta Nevada, is supposedly based on three pages of script from an unmade Hitchcock film. For next year's advertisement, Unfiltered would like to suggest that Scorcese instead work with one of his own scripts rather than one of Hitchcock's. Maybe have Robert Deniro say, "You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?" before whipping out his bottle of Freixenet and blasting the cork.
• Unfiltered may have found the one time that it wouldn't be considered rude to lick your bowl clean: If you're spending $3,333.33 for the world's most expensive ice cream sundae. Neal Gottlieb, founder of Three Twins Ice Cream, set to open in the new Oxbow Public Market in Napa later this month, conceived the concoction: a banana split drenched in three rare desert wines—a 1960s vintage Port, a Château d'Yquem and a Trockenbeerenauslese—that are boiled down to syrup. The dish is served with an antique spoon. Three Twins, which currently makes more than 70 flavors of certified organic ice cream and also has a shop in San Rafael, Calif., plans to donate $1,111.11 from the sale of each sundae to the Napa Land Trust. "I like imaginary rivalry, and Serendipity's in New York has a $1,000 sundae," said Gottlieb. "I thought it would be fun to make a [world's most expensive] food item and tie it in with Napa wine culture." If you don't have $3,000 burning a hole in your pocket, you can try one of the other unique flavors, like Strawberry Je Ne Sais Quoi (with a splash of balsamic vinegar) or The Chocolate Project for only $3.50 in an organic waffle cone or $6 for a pint.
• If you need more proof that the wine culture is becoming popular with a younger audience, then look no further than St. Helena High School student Jaime Medina. According to this week's St. Helena Star, Medina undertook a project through the National FFA Organization, formerly known as the Future Farmers of America, to develop methods for identifying and minimizing contamination by TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole), the chemical compound that can ruin wine by stripping it of its flavors and causing aromas similar to cardboard or wet newspaper. Medina worked with Eric Herve at the St. Helena ETS Laboratories, where he learned how to identify TCA's taste and aroma. His project also included hands-on experience working with the quality-control screening panel at Beringer Estate winery that is responsible for detecting TCA in batches of corks. Medina worked on the project for an entire year, and came in first place at a state FFA convention. Unfiltered congratulates Medina on a job well done, though we're a little humbled considering that our greatest moment in high school was merely stealing our rival team's mascot.
|It's a Meritage, not necessarily a great match for curry.|
• Monte Lago Estate winery in Clearlake Oaks, Calif., has released a set of exotic Asian labels that depict beautiful Indian women in various poses ... no, not those poses. Nevertheless, a few of the images did have to be slightly modified due to U.S. labeling laws that prohibit "obscene" images of women (and men) from appearing on bottles of alcohol. The labels are the showpiece of Monte Lago's new wine brand, Dharma Estate, a play on the owners' last name, Dharmapalan. Proprietor Jacqueline Dharmapalan and her husband, Jonathan, sourced the pictures for the labels from their own collection of Asian art. The artwork represents a major change from the couple's more traditional Monte Lago label. "We felt like we stuck our neck out [on this project]," Mrs. Dharmapalan said. "[But] we needed to have something that is closer to who we are." Both the front and back labels are made of imported silk and each bottle is individually numbered. Word is, future labels may indeed feature pictures from the Kama Sutra. Those probably won't fly with the labeling authorities, but somehow we think that's a bit more tasteful than the labels featuring Mamie van Doren.
• Star chef Michel Richard cooked up a seven-course feast for charity at his Washington D.C. restaurant Citronelle on Nov. 16. The elaborate dinner featured pairings from sommelier Mark Slater, including wines such as the Jean Laurent Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne 1996 and Joseph Phelps Insignia from 1994 and 1997. Proceeds benefited the MidAtlantic chapter of the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation, which assists seriously ill children and their families. Said Richard of his participation in the inaugural event, "I love kids. I am the father of six children, but sometimes I feel like I'd like to be godfather to them all."