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Town & Country - The Wine Cellar

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Were any serious wine collector to conjure up the ideal cellar space, it might be the one owned by Napa Valley winemaker Ann Barry Colgin.

"I think it's great that more women are collecting wine," says American winemaker Ann Barry Colgin as she point to the ad- joining wine cellars that house her own handcrafted reds as well as the 13,500-bottle collection she shares with her husband and business partner, Joe Wender, an investment banker with Goldman Sachs.

"Back when I was a wine auctioneer at Sotheby's," says Colgin, "men dominated in the bidding and the buying, but that's changing." Still, she admits there's a difference in how the sexes approach buying wine, as in most things. "Women are more practical about it, thinking, 'How much wine am I actually going to drink?' while men are just so competitive," Colgin says with a teasing nod toward Wender, who describes himself as an obsessive wine collector. As for the 600-square-foot cellar space in their residence at the Colgin winery, in St. Helena, California, Colgin says: "We wanted to create a timeless, old-world feeling while maximizing the space. We're very proud of it, and we often show it off to guests." To create the two contiguous cellars, Colgin and Wender worked with the Los Angeles-based interior-design firm Hendrix Allardyce and the Sausalito-based wine cellar designer Thomas E. Warner. "Wine is a huge part of our lives, and we love to share it with friends and family," says Colgin. Having so many bottles gives them the spontaneity they crave. "We never know what we're going to want to drink," she says. "We may want to pour a Colgin, or we might decide it's a perfect evening for a good northern Rhône."

Ann in the larger cellar

1) Warner had these racks handcrafted from salvaged old-growth redwood, a soft wood that works well in wine cellars. "Not only is it an environmentally sound idea," he points out, "but the wood takes on a wonderfully musty wine smell, and its color darkens beautifully over time. The wood breathes, just as wine breathes.

2) Hendrix Allardyce colored the walls and concrete floors in honey and amber tones, with veins of terra-cotta running through the walls as an extension of the colors in the rest of the property. "We wanted to create the flavor of something being very ancient," says Tom Allardyce, of the interior-design firm.

3) These Gothic-style light fixtures were created by Hendrix Allardyce out of iron and panes of amber milk glass, which suffuse the space with a mellow glow.

4) The 18th-century Indonesian door is four inches thick and lends the entrance an element of drama. "We loved that it was studded," says Allardyce.

5) Warner installed the rolling library ladders for both practical and aesthetic reasons. They work well in tall, narrow spaces such as the Colgin cellar (ceilings are fourteen feet eight inches) and recall an actual library, a resource of information. "Wine is history, after all," he says.

How To Pour On The Hospitality

Although Colgin and Wender do not use their cellars for entertaining, they love to throw dinner parties and have their guests choose the wines for the meal. Later guests sign the empty bottles, which are then artfully displayed on a sideboard in the dining room. "We'll do a Spain theme one night, with Spanish food and wine, and maybe even have a dancer," says Colgin. If we have a group that's knowledgeable about wine, we might do a blind tasting and then discuss the wine afterward.

Tools of the Trade

Colgin's favorite corkscrew is in the Château Laguiole Passier. For an elegant dinner, she sets the table with William Yeoward Crystal. For wine tastings, she likes to use Riedel Vinum Extreme glassware. Her favorite reference books include The New Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia, by Tom Stevenson, and The Wine Bible, by Karen MacNeil.

Naming Favorites. The five bottles Colgin and Wender treasure most:

  • A six-liter 1985 Domaine de la Romane-Conti La Tâche
  • A magnum 1945 Château Mouton Rothschild
  • A jeroboam 1961 Château Latour
  • A 750-milliliter 1935 Simi Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley
  • A magnum of 1947 Vieux Château Certan


  • Total number of bottles in the two cellars: 15,000 (13,500 in the personal cellar, 1,500 in the all-Colgin cellar); total combined capacity is 16,500.
  • Oldest bottle: 1889 Bouchard Père & Fils, Nuits-Saint-Georges
  • Most valuable bottle: Magnum from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (1950s or '60s; estimated at $30,000)
  • Most obscure wine region represented: Israel
  • Number of countries represented: Fourteen
  • Number of U.S. States represented: Four
  • Percentage of whites versus reds: 75 percent red, 25 percent white/Champagne/sparkling
  • Total gallons of wine: 3,000


The cellar holding Colgin wines is a library of all Colgin wines produced so far. (A vertical is a set with one bottle for each year; a magnum is a 1.5-liter bottle; a jeroboam is three liters.) To date, the most valuable Colgin wines include:

  • A ten-magnum vertical (1992-2001) of Colgin Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, sold for $53,775 at auction.
  • TychsonHill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, sold for $47,800 at auction.
  • A bottle of 2002 Colgin Tychson Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, currently selling for $1,249.

 By Amy Weaver Dorning

Town & Country Magazine