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1788 Cognac bottle PicmonkeyVieux Cognac Grande Champagne Fine ‘Clos de Griffier’ Café Anglais 1788 PHOTO © 2012 Christies

The oldest cognacs from the cellars of the Parisian restaurant La Tour d’Argent, on auction at Christies in London, were snatched away in the blink of an eye by Dutch collector Bay van der Bunt in December.

In spite of his recent announcement to sell his world’s largest collection of Old Liquors, the experienced bidder was quick to raise his paddle and call for ‘all lots’ when the 6 bottles of the prized pre-Revolutionary Vieux Cognac Grande Champagne Fine ‘Clos de Griffier’ Café Anglais 1788 appeared in the saleroom.

Earlier this year a customer at London’s Playboy Club accidentally smashed a £50,000 identical bottle of this cognac, which was destined for a record-breaking cocktail by cocktail Maestro Salvatore Calabrese.

Other venerable lots where the Christie’s auctioneer brought down the gavel in Bay’s favor included two Jeroboams (2.5L) Grande Fine Champagne Cognac ‘La Tour d’Argent’ 1805. This extremely rare format was bottled on site more than 200 years ago. The bottles were hammered of for £23,000 each.

Bay van der Bunt Liquor Collector Pix Picmonkey Bay van der Bunt (64) owner/ collector of World’s largest Old Liquors collectionPHOTO © Old Liquors - Sophie Mutevelian

“Although I promised my wife Ria I would sell my collection, to add the last remaining bottles from the year 1788 to my collection was an opportunity I could not let pass by”, according to Bay. All bottles can be viewed at www.oldliquors.com, where Bay shares his passion with the world.

The bottles where kept for over 200 years in the dark cellars of the famous French eatery and survived World War I and II. During World War II the owner Claude Terrail saved the wine cellar from being purged by the occupying Germans by walling up the enormous cellar that contained a majority of its prized rare vintages.

Claude’s son André Terrail has gone to auction with one hundred and eighty lots of ancient armagnac, rum, calvados, port and marc as well as the historic cognacs, all from the cellars of his Parisian restaurant’s extraordinary cellar.

This is not the first time La Tour d’Argent’s owner André Terrail has gone to auction with the contents of his restaurant’s drinks paradise. In 2009, he sold 18,000 bottles for more than €1.5m in order to finance the purchase of newer vintages.


Editor's note: European sources contributed to this TASTE News Service report.

The El Dorado Winery Association and its 35 wineries in the Sierra foothills has unveiled a new-look website to accommodate the region’s continually growing popularity and to match the area’s unique energy and acclaimed wines.

Madrona vineyardmountains PicmonkeyMadroña is at 3000 feet elevation

This latest step comes only a few weeks after the state Department of Food and Agriculture awarded the region a $179,000 Specialty Crop Block Grant to help build a complete marketing effort focused on making all of California and Northern Nevada, and particularly areas like Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, Reno and Carson City, more aware of what’s happening in this unique Sierra foothill region.

“The grant is California’s recognition that what we’re doing with our wine and our wineries is something the rest of the state should know about,” said Beth Jones EDWA President and co-owner of Lava Cap Winery. “We’re seeing wine lovers respond to what we do, and we’ve been working hard to get the word out. Our new website is another step in that direction.”

The group of family-owned, award-winning wineries has been revamping its look and communications efforts for the past year. That includes the new marketing campaign “Taste At A Higher Level,” which details the region’s increasing popularity among wine drinkers and critics, and tells the story of the high altitude vineyards ranging from 1,200 to 3,000 feet, and of a place where wine has been grown and made since the Gold Rush.

“It’s exciting to see people discover our foothills and our wine,” said Terrie Prod’hon, EDWA’s Public Relations and Marketing Committee Chair and owner of Mount Aukum Winery. “Our new site will help more people see why El Dorado wine country is such a special place.”

About El Dorado Winery Association

El Dorado’s wineries offer visitors a wide diversity of award winning wines, friendly tasting room staffs, and spectacular views of hillside vineyards, snow-capped mountains and oak-studded foothills. El Dorado County is in Gold Country about an hour from Sacramento or South Lake Tahoe and a little over two hours from Reno or the San Francisco area. For more information, visit www.eldoradowines.org.


Editor's note: Visiting wineries in Northern California? The Resource Directory of Taste California Travel has links to hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, all organized in an easy-to-use format. Also in the Resource Directory are links to the websites of all the state's wineries, as well as over 600 beer-centric restaurants and pubs.


LOS GATOS, Calif., Dec. 6, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- "Yields normal to a bit above; quality very high" was the verdict at Testarossa Winery, following this year's wine grape harvest. Testarossa specializes in small lot, vineyard-specific Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from some of California's best-known winegrowers. After twelve vintages at the winery, winemaker Bill Brosseau is well qualified to discuss the "state of the crush" in the fifteen vineyards and five separate appellations (Santa Lucia Highlands, Sta. Rita Hills, Russian River, Arroyo Grande Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Chalone) that the winery partners with.Bill Brosseau Winemaker at Testarossa PicmonkeyBill Brosseau

Bill comments, "Following the challenges of the 2011 growing season, many of us in the industry were overly prepared for weather events that might catch us off-guard, as they did last year. The forecast for a wet winter and wet spring never materialized. Spring frosts, late summer heat waves, or fall rains were pretty much non-existent. The 'weather pinball machine' was off this year and we had spectacular conditions throughout the coastal appellations. The weather stayed relatively consistent through September and October. We were able to pick, process, ferment, and barrel-down with a smooth cadence, which tends to lend itself to very high quality wines."

A case in point would be the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, whose vineyards supply about 80% of the grapes for Testarossa's vintages. The Los Gatos winery was one of the early "adopters" of the SLH; their first vintage from the AVA was in 1997. Testarossa has long-term partnerships with twelve vineyards in the appellation and produces single-vineyard releases from the Fogstone, Rosella's, Garys', Lone Oak, Doctor's, Dos Rubios, and Pisoni estates.

Bill Brosseau continues, "We started the harvest in the Highlands in southern end at Pisoni, where the farming and attention to detail is second to none. By the time we got to the heart of the SLH appellation and the cooler, northern end, we had honed in picking parameters. Overall, we found ourselves picking on the later side of other labels working with the same vineyards. With the extended hang-time, we did see the potential acidity balance to near perfect levels. As an added bonus, we saw an increase in silky tannins, resulting in a fuller mouthfeel for our Pinot Noir.  For our Chardonnays, we pressed to lower yields per ton to minimize phenolic extraction of tannins, thus allowing the natural acidity to be more apparent in the palate structure.

Dos Rubios Vnyd PicmonkeyDos Rubios Vineyard in picturesque Santa Lucia Highlands"We were also very pleased with the third vintage fruit coming off our new Dos Rubios Vineyard project in the Highlands. Here we have complete "dirt to bottle" quality control as we personally oversee every aspect of this estate's winegrowing operations. Overall, 2012 may prove to be the greatest vintage ever from the Santa Lucia Highlands. And the young wines from our other ranches and appellations are looking equally promising."

About Testarossa…

Testarossa (Italian for "red head") was the nickname given Rob Jensen as a young university student in Italy. Rob and Diana Jensen left their high-tech careers and started their brand in their garage in 1993 with just twenty-five cases of wine. Today, the winery works closely with top winegrowers in the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills, Arroyo Grande Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Russian River Valley, and Chalone appellations. The label has grown to national prominence among collectors and reviewers by cultivating long-term partnerships with passionate winegrowers and vineyards such as Garys', Pisoni, Rosella's, Bien Nacido, and Rincon.

The Jensens' winery occupies of site of the old Novitiate Winery in downtown Los Gatos. The tasting room is open daily, as is “107,” their patio wine bar.


Editor's note: Visiting the Los Gatos area or planning a trip south to the Santa Lucia Highlands? You'll find links to the website of hundreds of Lodging and Dining opportunities in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.