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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Bel Air resident and Napa Valley winemaker Ann Colgin decants the cult status of her Cabernet

On the Saturday mornings that she's in town, Ann Colgin often has breakfast with her husband Joe Wender on the Terrace of Hotel Bel Air, for it's only a stone's throw away from their house in the neighborhood. "We'd walk there if anyone walked in L.A.," jokes the attractive brunette in an accent that hints of her Waco, Texas upbringing and Vanderbilt University education. But lately, Colgin has been spending more of her time in Napa Valley than in Los Angeles, for she is the owner of Colgin Cellars, whose wines have achieved cult status among collectors.

Colgin Cellars' Ann Colgin with Managing Director Carlos Lopez and Resident Manager Roland Venturini "assuaging the asthers" of a Colgin vintage

"I've got a waiting list of more than 4,000 people that goes back to 1997," explains Colgin. "Though sometimes I give special consideration to someone who has spent a very large amount of money buying the Colgin lot at a charity auction." For the record, the "very large amount of money" at the 2004 Napa Valley Wine Auction was $90,000 for a six¬liter bottle of the 2001 Colgin Cellars Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, while at the 2004 Naples Winter Wine Festival it was $200,000 for a three liter bottle of the 1994 Colgin Cellars Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. "That wasn't the most anyone ever paid for one of our wines, though," adds Colgin with a proud smile. "At the 2000 Napa Valley Wine Auction, which raised $9.5 million for charity, a six liter bottle of our 1997 Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, presented in a box designed and made by David Linley Furniture Ltd. of London, went for $220,000."

Why is the sky the limit for wines produced by a woman who didn't even get into the business until 1992? The former art and antiques consultant, who worked at Christie's in New York and was president of Fairchilds Fine Art in Florida from 1985 to 1997, says she applies even higher standards of perfection than those that guided her in her first profession to her second. "Our handcrafted wines are artistic expressions of the finest hillside terroir in the Napa Valley," says Colgin. "They each display their own fascinating personalities expressed through exceptional viticultural methods and classical winemaking techniques."

"our wines are artistic expressions of the finest hillside terroir.. they each display their own personalities"

It was wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. who put Colgin Cellars on the radar of wine collectors when he bestowed a rating of 92 points on their first release, a 1992 Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon made in collaboration with famed winemaker Helen Turley. It's been a steady climb to success ever since. Parker deemed Colgin Cellars' 2001 Cariad Napa Valley Red Wine, made in collaboration with winemaker Mark Aubert, "virtually perfect." And Robb Report deemed Colgin Cellars' Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Tychson Hill Vineyard 2000 "The Best of the Best (of the vintage) for 2004." Colgin is looking forward to releasing 990 cases of the 2001 vintage wine their largest production yet in

November, and to introducing a Syrah and a Bordeaux style blend from her new vineyard, IX Estate in Napa Valley, in 2005 and 2006. She is also excited about her new part ownership and involvement with Camille Giroud, a wine negotiant in Burgundy. "With all my traveling to Napa and France, though, I'm always glad to hang my hat in Bel Air," she says.

Colgin and Wender entertain often in their Spanish Revival home, which was designed by Roland Coate in 1929 and was once owned by Charles Bronson. In the basement, they built a state of the art wine cellar to house their 10,000 bottle wine collection. "We love sharing our wines with our friends and family," says Colgin, referring to the many dinners, charity events and wine tastings that they host.

Anyone who isn't fortunate enough to taste a Colgin Cellars wine at their house or who can't wait to buy a bottle from the waiting list can order one in The Restaurant of Hotel Bel Air, one of the few restaurants in Los Angeles to feature Colgin wines.

 By Sharon Boorstin