Monday, March 19, 2012
Secret Cellars Tour
On Sunday, March 18, 2012, over 100 Wine Auction friends gathered at an undisclosed location to be chauffeured to four different top secret locations. Once they arrived at each of the locations, these lucky guests descended into the deep dark depths of deliciousness as they toured four of the finest wine cellars in the city at private Atlanta residences. On hand in each of the cellars was a sommelier or wine expert who poured their finest wines by the bottle. Clay Williams from Kevin Rathbun Steak, Ian Mendelsohn from H&F Bottle Shop, and Michael McNeil from Quality Wine & Spirits did the pouring, while guests sipped, swirled and savored the wine. Much to the excitement of all of the guests, the hosts even joined in and poured from their private collections! After touring the exquisite cellar in the fourth home of our tour, a fabulous buffet dinner was served by Tony Conway and A Legendary Event.
While the food and wine definitely gave their best attempt to steal the show, it was truly the spectacular cellars at each of the homes that took center stage on our tour. We’d love to share a little bit of history of each host’s wine collecting and also the origination of their cellars. Out of respect of their privacy, we have left out the names of the four host couples.
Secret Cellar #1
Although they now reside in Atlanta, the owners of the first home on our tour are both life-long natives of New Orleans. Seven years ago in September 2005 as they pulled their oldest child out of his new kindergarten for a mandatory storm evacuation – something done uneventfully many times before – they had no idea of knowing their lives would never be the same again. Devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the couple’s home was destroyed by massive flood waters. Like so many natives, their intent was to rebuild their home and return to New Orleans; but after being in Atlanta a short time, they came to realize how much they loved Atlanta and its people and decided to make it their permanent home.
The couple brought their love of friends, music, and food & drink with them to Atlanta. Their cellar and adjoining second kitchen is a place for them to entertain their many family and friends in the casual and joyful manner true to their native city. Since New Orleans sits three feet below sea level, there are not many true underground wine cellars. Their new home in Atlanta presented the husband the perfect opportunity to explore his dream of owning a world-class wine cellar like the ones he and his wife had fallen in love with on their tour of Napa Valley years ago.
Their wine cellar was designed by Atlanta designer Kenneth Knight. Constructed of sapele wood, a member the mahogany family also used for making the finest guitars, the beautiful pale color lends to the atmosphere of the cellar. Temperature controlled at 57 degrees, the cellar holds approximately 1,000 bottles.
The tasting table is outside of the wine cellar and can seat ten people for tasting or wine dinners. Sadly almost nothing could be salvaged from their flooded home in New Orleans, but one of the wife’s few remaining treasures from her home can be found just inside the tasting area. It is a sideboard she lovingly had refinished and is a reminder of her old home in her newly adopted city.
The family loves to entertain their friends and their children’s friends. It’s not uncommon for them to fly in fresh Gulf shrimp, crabs and gumbo for their many new-found friends and neighbors. While they have only been seriously collecting wine for less than three years, the collection they have put together in that short time is impressive. The husband is the consummate collector and admits to being “hooked;” he loves any opportunity to share his home and his love of good friends and good wine. The couple’s cellar is a reflection of their time in Atlanta – seemingly short but filled with wonderful memories with many more to come! They don’t claim to be wine collectors, just wine lovers! We were thrilled to welcome these wine lovers to our lovely city and also to our Wine Auction events!
Secret Cellar #2
“Wine – as a livelihood and a passion – has always been a part of my life,” explains the owner of the second home on our tour. Growing up in the industry and in the wine distribution company his grandfather started at the end of prohibition, he explains that he has been lucky to experience every facet of wine from production to consumption.
The host’s wine collection began to evolve after he and his wife decided to remodel their home in 2005. “At that point, knowing we were starting with a clean slate, I wanted to create something unique — something more than your average cellar.” He adds: “After all, the right surrounding can really add enjoyment and a sense of authenticity when tasting a wine.”
With this in mind, the couple enlisted the help of some talented individuals, such as a Cooperage organization that produce wine barrels in California for many of the large vineyards. Keith Knupp, who constructed the Cloister’s magnificent wine cellar at the Sea Island resort, was also engaged. Both were integral parts in making this cellar special. Cooperage gathered the 12 aged barrels that now line the back wall of the cellar. The barrels are meant to give the feel of a cellar in the Napa Valley and the scent of juice that still lingers on the used barrels helps age the cellar. While the owners designed the wine cellar, Knupp was responsible for building it and for the overall installation of the 100 year old wood racks that hold the barrels and bottles.
The cellar’s capacity is around 1,500 bottles. “My collection still has a lot of room for growth; I have only just begun the inventory process.” In filling the cellar, the couple has particular interest in the Bordeaux 1st, 2nd and 3rd growth wines, as well as, a well-rounded Burgundy selection. “Of course, I cannot forget the California wines, which have always been a personal favorite, and a few fantastic Napa Valley wines account for almost all of the large bottles I have in the cellar.”
The owner concludes: “The cellar is my pride in the house and I treat it as such, taking care that the wines are stored properly using a humidity and temperature control system that keeps the wines at a perfect 55 degrees and 65 percent humidity. This ensures that the corks don’t dry out. This cellar has allowed me to explore the leisure world of wine collecting and take the time to truly appreciate and develop my taste for new terroirs and blends.” We are grateful to this lovely couple for allowing us to explore this world of wine with them as the second cellar on our tour!
Secret Cellar #3
The owner of the third home on our tour designed his cellar to provide an Old World look and feel. With a capacity of 3,800 bottles, the 225 square foot cellar contained around 2,600 bottles at the time of the tour. The cellar is maintained at 62 degrees and includes a tasting area with a table and four chairs, although this area is rarely used as the host normally holds tastings for a larger number of guests. When asked about his strategy for filling the cellar, the owner cited two main criteria: drinkability, and the varietal and food pairing. Within the drinkability factor, he targets 40% to be consumed within 12 to 18 months; 40% to be consumed 18 months to five years; and, 20% are solid case purchases to be consumed 3 to 25 years out. The second criterion was Varietal and Food paring – collecting wines that go with the food he likes to eat. “I would always have wines to pair with the foods that I want to eat, even though I will sometimes pick the wine first and then select the food to pair with the wine.” He selects wines for storing when great vintages occur. “Therefore, in years like 2009 and 2010, I would purchase more wines due to the great vintages in Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhone. I maintain a wide selection of California, Oregon, France, Italy, Germany and Austria at all times. The balance between regions may vary when we have great vintages that are age-worthy.”
The owner started collecting wines in 1971 while working at a wine shop during graduate school and his oldest bottle is from 1949. However, “The trophy wine I have in my cellar was given to me by Hubert Lignier while tasting with him in his kitchen. He went to his cellar and brought up an unlabeled 1985 Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru.” This wine, much like the third cellar on our tour, is truly one of a kind!
Secret Cellar #4
“Wine (for us) is all about the experiences we share with family and friends,” the hosts of the fourth home on our tour tell us. “Our collection reflects the paths we’ve taken – travels, meals, and our keen interest in art and history – we’re total Francophiles. We also dabble with the wines of Italy and Germany.” They describe their collecting strategy: “When we started collecting some 30 years ago, we didn’t known Andlau from Anjou, but now we’re total fans of the wonderful Chenin blanc and four noble varieties that make those towns famous.” The lion’s share is French. While Bordeaux and Rhône are well represented, their current focus lies with the Alsace [all varietals] and the Loire Valley (Chenin blanc and Cabernet Franc).
The cellar is Old World, just like the wines it stores. Perhaps, it’s a new take on an old cellar beneath the sidewalks of Beaune. The cellar is about 1,250 SF and rests 30 feet below the back door to the house. It was built with split brick, rock, garden stones from the neighbors’ yards, and oak recycled from a 19th Century barn. It is octagon shaped with an inner sanctum where the ceiling forms a gothic vault. “This is where we stand and taste wine.” The depth of the cellar is the first step in temperature control; a separate chiller insures a consistent temperature – maintained at a range of 54 to 56 degrees. The wife tells us: “We have had as many as 28 in the cellar at one time; groups of 18 and less work better. We did not design the cellar for entertaining.” The entrance was designed low so tall guys have to stoop over.
The oldest bottle in the collection is a Riesling from the 1940’s. “We have a bottle of 1953 Chateau Canon given as a birthday gift; the great freeze of 1956 makes difficult the task of finding a Claret to match our birth years (‘56 and ‘57). Asked about large bottles in their collection, she said: “We collect Bordeaux in large formats (1.5L,) believing this is the optimal way to age, and later enjoy, great Claret. While we have a few other large bottles, including a couple of Melchiors (18L’s), typically, we shy away from anything larger than magnums due to the unreliability of oversized corks – and most of our dinners are with 8 or less.”
They started collecting after “we were attending a dinner party in our early 20’s; our host served a bottle of Chateau Haut-Brion he had ‘rescued’ from his father’s cellar. We fell in love with the wine and its rich, glorious history.” But, “the most important wine is not in the cellar; it’s on our dining room table!” We couldn’t imagine better Wine Auction friends to host us all for the fourth stop on our tour.
Secret Cellars Tour Sommeliers and Wine Experts
Michael McNeill, Quality Wine & Spirits
Michael McNeill was the first (and for several years, the only) Master Sommelier in the State of Georgia. He adds his impressive resume to the staff resources at Quality, not only with his expertise but also with his solid background in the luxury restaurant and hotel market.
McNeill is two-time national champion of the “Best Sommelier in America”. He represented the U.S. in two world finals; at the Sopexa Gran Prix du Sommelier in Paris in 1994—which entitled McNeill to serve as President of the Jury for the U.S. competition that followed in 1997—and the Concours Mondial du Sommelier in Tokyo in 1995.
Ian Mendelsohn, H&F Bottle Shop
Ian Mendelsohn has had the opportunity to serve in a number of extraordinary roles and places during his career. While living in New York, he was sommelier at Windows on the World and ran the wine department at Christie’s Auction House. In Las Vegas he was Wine Director of the Mirage Hotel and Casino. Prior to joining the team at H&F Bottle Shop, he was Wine Director at the St. Regis Buckhead. He is one of only a handful of people in the state of Georgia who have passed the Diploma examination of the Wine and Spirits Trust. A native of Baltimore, Ian favors wines with soul, that say something of the land from which they come and our relationship to it.
Clay Williams, Kevin Rathbun Steak
In April 2007, Clay Williams started with Kevin Rathbun Steak assisting with the planning and opening of the steakhouse. He worked at Rathbun’s for several months prior the opening. Clay’s role at Kevin Rathbun Steak allows him to take the role as the Beverage Purchaser where he takes his passion for beer, wine and liquor and has created an incredible and affordable international wine list.
The Secret Cellars Tour would not have been possible without the support of our gracious hosts and volunteers. Special thanks go to H&F Bottle Shop, Majestic Fine Wines, National Distributing Company and Quality Wine & Spirits for donating the wines for our tour. We would also like to raise a glass to Tony Conyway and Liz Cipro of A Legendary Event for their support, Gina Christman of Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles for sponsoring the event, and Greene Classic Limousine for providing the transportation. All images courtesy of Photographer Maggie Drake.
Please join us on Sunday, February 24, 2013 for the Secret Cellars Tour in conjunction with our 21st Annual High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction!
Cheers, Julie and Cate
Monday, January 30, 2012
Top Bidders Dinner at the St. Regis Atlanta
(L to R: Honored Guest Patrick Maroteaux of Château Branaire-Ducru, 2012 Co-chair Carmen Pope, Wine Auction Founder Dick Denny, and 2012 Co-chair Merry McCleary)
The St. Regis Atlanta generously hosted our annual Top Bidders Dinner on Sunday, January 29th at the gorgeous Buckhead hotel on West Paces Ferry. The Champagne Reception was held in the St. Regis Living Room and dinner was served in the Astor Ballroom’s pre-function space.
The 2011 Wine Auction Co-chairs, Louise Sams and Michelle Sullivan, were so gracious in the planning of the dinner. These hostesses passed the torch to Merry McCleary and Carmen Pope, the 2012 Wine Auction Co-chairs. Patrick Maroteaux of Château Branaire-Ducru was our Honored Guest for the evening, and we welcomed him from the Saint-Julien appellation of the Bordeaux region of France. Additionally, Joe Best of Quality Wine & Spirits, Doug Bryant of Sherlock’s Wine Merchant, and David Milligan were very benevolent and supportive in their assistance with the event.
Presented by Executive Chef Jonathan Jerusalmy and Pastry Chef Ami Dand, the dinner included a delectable five course meal preceded by the Champagne Reception of Vilmart & Cie Cuvée Rubis.
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Foie Gras Flan
Celeriac Silk, Sautéed Apple and Madeira Reduction
2006 Duluc de Branaire-Ducru
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Pan Seared Diver Scallop
Georgian Honey Sautéed Winter Endives, Parsnip Mousseline
Vanilla Citrus Reduction
2009 Damien Laureau Savennières Les Genêts
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Grilled Tenderloin of Beef
Truffle Grits, Slow Cooked Oxtail, Roasted Brussel
Sprouts Laced with Maplewood Smoked Bacon
2000 Château Branaire-Ducru
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St. Regis Cheese Plate
Pave d Affinois with Caramelized Pistachios
Persian Feta with Pickled Radishes
Camembert with Dry Figs and Port Reduction
1999 Château Branaire-Ducru
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Blood Orange Sorbet
Vanilla Sable Candied Pistachio Orange Paper, Pistachio Dust
Bosc Pear Sorbet, Brown Sugar Chiffon,
Pear Pate de Fruit, Ginger Pear Compote
2009 Château Doisy-Vedrines, Sauternes
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
2011 Napa Trip
In early November, we made our annual journey west with the 2012 Co-chairs and several committee members to visit a few of our favorite vineyards and vintners. After five days of amazing tours, tastings, and meals, we were all wined out! Photos do not do justice to the gorgeous views and sights we saw, but we are so excited to share them with you. Cheers!
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Welcome to the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction’s blog! We hope you’ll check in with us often as we bring you news and notes about the upcoming 20th Anniversary of Atlanta’s premier charity fundraising event and the number one charity wine auction benefitting the arts. Be sure to mark your calendars for March 28 – 31, 2012! Plans are well underway for our most exciting Auction yet and we look forward to sharing all the upcoming details straight from the High Museum’s Wine Auction office. Cheers from the Wine Auction team, Cate and Claire!
Monday, October 3, 2011
Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards visits Atlanta
If you’ve never had a taste of Iron Horse wines before, now’s your chance. Joy Sterling, CEO of Iron Horse Vineyards, will be in Atlanta this Wednesday, October 7 for two not-to-be missed events. She’ll be pouring her wine at Sherlock’s Wine Merchant – Brookhaven from 5 pm – 6:30 pm. Buy a ticket today! http://brookhavenwinebeer.com/iron-horse-tasting-with-joy-sterling/
Then, Joy will host an exclusive wine dinner at Food 101, beginning at 7 pm. To make reservations, please call 404-497-9700.
We’re also pleased to announce that Iron Horse wine will poured at The Picasso to Warhol Gala at the High Museum of Art on Thursday, October 6.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Friday Night Fête
The tents in Atlantic Station on Friday, March 25 once again played host to a decadent evening of fine wine, food, and fun on Auction Eve! Old friends and new toasted to the Ultimate Collection with a glass of Iron Horse Vineyards Classic Vintage Brut, dampened their palates with exciting Silent Auction items and enjoyed a seated dinner by A Legendary Event! Then shoes were kicked off as guests danced the night away to A Class Act Band!
Monday, August 8, 2011
2011 Vintners’ Reception and Live Auction
Thank you to our wonderful patrons, corporate sponsors, food and wine friends, committee members and volunteers – all of whom made the 2011 High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction a rousing success. Here is a sampling of pictures from the 2011 Auction; we hope to see you all again next March!
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Sherlock’s announces their Fall Wine Class Schedule at their new Buckhead Location. Classes are suited for wino novices and oenophiles alike! Check it out: http://buckheadwineshop.com/fall-classes-at-sherlocks-wine-merchant-buckhead/
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
On Tuesday, July 12th your faithful Wine Auction leaders headed over to Murphy’s to greet friends Andy Wilcox of Lambert Bridge and Steve Reynolds of Reynolds Family Winery for an evening of wine tasting, picture slideshows and gregarious conversations.
Each label poured made our palettes happy and soon we didn’t know if we were smiling because of the wine or because of Andy’s Lambert Bridge slideshow that included some of their favorite ambassadors – their beloved canines — or if it was Steve’s story of how out-of-town gentlemen never really know how to dress for Atlanta’s diverse dining scene. Note to Steve – if you’re bringing the wine, it doesn’t matter what you wear! Thank you to Andy, Steve, and Murphy’s for a wonderful evening!