Colgin Cellars - Press - Ann Colgin: Living the Grape Life

Ann Colgin: Living the Grape Life

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Monday, October 15, 2001

If you're thinking you'd like to buy a case of wine from the cellars of your old college friend Ann Barry Colgin, forget it!

If you're thinking you'd like to buy a case of wine-say a cabernet with a near perfect rating, one that Brazilian pianist Sergio Mendes compares to "a sensuous lover"-from the cellars of your old college friend Ann Barry Colgin, forget it!

Colgin Cellars is known for wines that are both lyrical and impossible to find. While wine aficionados rhapsodize over the glories of her 1992 Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and subsequent offerings, the demand has outstripped the cellar's small output of 400-500 cases a year. In fact, Colgin has reluctantly closed her 5000-name waiting list.

Ann Berry Colgin

When Colgin, BS'80, was an A&S senior at Vanderbilt, she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. "If anyone had told me I would end up in the wine industry, I wouldn't have believed it," she says with a laugh. So, the fine arts major from Waco, Texas, decided to enroll in a Decorative Works of Art course that Sotheby's was offering in London. Following graduation, she and two of her Vanderbilt classmates packed up and moved to a flat off London's Sloane Square.

Soon she found herself sampling, and learning to appreciate, some of the better wines. When she returned to the United States six months later, Colgin accepted a position with Christie's in New York. For the next few years, while she worked as an arts and antiques dealer and earned her master's degree in arts administration at New York University, Colgin found many opportunities to learn more about wines.

It was in 1988 when Colgin (by now a private dealer) was invited to attend the celebrated Napa Valley Wine Auction in California and began learning about the winemaking process. In her heart, she never left.

More vacations found her back in Napa. And soon, she was planning a wine project of her own-as a sideline. She hired a noted winemaker and arranged to purchase grapes from the vineyard of Herb and Jennifer Lamb. By 1992, she had produced her first vintage, the Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet, which was uncorked in 1995 to rave reviews. After that, there was no turning back.

According to an article in American Express's online magazine, the cabernets from Colgin Cellars are now considered some of the best ever to come out of California.

"It has been a sensational few years," says Colgin, who remains a bit amazed at all the fuss. (A Colgin wine allotment was even included in one couple's divorce settlement. It was awarded to the wife.)

The 40-something vintner has been offered everything from a stockpile of Colgin Cellars tee shirts to a Mercedes Sports Utility Vehicle in exchange for a case of her best vintage. As always with Colgin, the answer is a gracious, "Thank you, but no."

In 1997, Sotheby's asked this Southerner to open their West Coast wine department. She continues as their consultant and is much in demand as a wine auctioneer.

These days, however, a lot of Colgin's time is divided between her Bel Air home and office and Tychson Hill, a vineyard she purchased in Napa Valley in 1996. She and her husband, Joe Wender, have rebuilt the historic old house and planted two and half acres with a small cabernet vineyard. The first vintage from her very own vineyard was stored in aging barrels last year and will be released in 2003.

 By Judith DeMoss Campbell

Vanderbilt A&S Cornerstone