NAPA - I had the privilege to co-host a dinner at Colgin Cellars, in Napa Valley recently, with the gracious vintner, collector, and philanthropist Ann Colgin and her husband Joe Wender.
The sun was setting on a perfect summer night overlooking the hillside vineyard, with the majestic Lake Hennesey in the distance, as the guests arrived. We had invited several collectors, whose interests range from old-master painting to contemporary. Many of them are vintners themselves, and we toured the state-of-the-art winery and gorgeous wine cellars – one of all Colgin vintages, and the other a remarkable collection that they have built over thirty years, with the help of Sotheby’s wine specialists.
We were entertained in the sorting room by an extraordinary contortionist who did tricks with hula hoops and wine glasses that were unimaginable, while drinking a 1999 Taittinger Champagne and nibbling on salmon rillettes, ratatouille, and tuna tartare.
At the dinner table, our first course was a Maine lobster, melon, pickled shallot, and mustard green salad with a piquillo pepper vinaigrette, accompanied by a 2008 Corton Charlemagne, a vineyard in Burgundy where the couple also have an interest . Their dog, a Coton breed named Corton Charlemagne of course, also joined us at dinner – he chose the flat iron steak option rather than the seared halibut, and following his lead, so did I. We all had frites, which pared extremely well with the deep ruby 2005 “IX Estate” Napa Valley Red Wine. But the favorite by far was the aromatic 2004 Syrah, which was served with a dessert soufflé of Cabecou Cheese and Truffles. I understood why Colgin wines are among the most sought after and hard to get hand-crafted reds in the region.
The food was catered by Thomas Keller’s French bistro, Bouchon – and I took solace in the fact that when I got to my next destination, Los Angeles, there was a Bouchon across the street from my hotel, where I could continue the feasting.
Napa is an ideal destination for collectors – while there is no museum per se, there are remarkable private collections, many housed in vineyards by renowned architects such as Herzog and de Meuron, Michael Graves, and Frank Gehry. The Hess Collection, whose contemporary art museum is open to the public, is definitely worth a visit. I would have loved to see Stonescape, the “art cave” belonging to Norah and Norman and housing changing installations from their contemporary collection, but they were not in town. They also have a James Turrell swimming pool and pavilion. The good news is I will have to go back.