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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Grapes of wrath? Not for vintner Ann Colgin.

Ann Colgin grew up playing softball in Waco, Texas. Had she stayed with the sport, batting .333 (one hit in three attempts), she could have given Derek Jeter a run for his Yankee money. Lucky for us, she retired her cleats. Because where her talent really shines is in the wine world: all hits, no misses.

Beginning with a focus on antiques in the auction world, Colgin eventually moved in to wine. After developing a love for the good stuff, she founded Colgin Cellars in Napa Valley in 1992. Her very first wine, with the long-winded name "Colgin Cellars Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon," was a home run, praised by Robert Parker and other critics. Since then her boutique winery has grown from 275 cases of a single varietal to 2,700 cases from five different wines, each highly regarded by critics and collectors alike.

How did she get there? "It's a combination of terroir and talent," she explains, referring first to the unique soil and climate where she grows her grapes, second to the stellar team she assembled for her winery. But the fruit and growing conditions definitely come first. "Without the great grapes, it doesn't matter who makes up your team."

Beyond that, Colgin spares no expense and cuts no corners. "I never strive to make more wine," she says with a soft drawl. "Just the best wine possible."

Colgin and her husband, investment banker Joe Wender, split their time between their home in Bel Air and a second residence in St. Helena, located on a historic vineyard, along with several trips a year to Burgundy and stops at their apartment in New York. Wine is a shared passion for the couple, who met at a wine dinner at Spago in 1997 and married three years later.

Their Los Angeles home has a spectacular wine cellar that takes up most of the bottom floor, with separate rooms for different regions. Both antique and contemporary pieces decorate the house, a reflection of Colgin's background. "What we love is that it's a great place to entertain friends," she says. "We have a lot of wine to drink, so we need the help."

 By Chris Rubin