CHRISTIE'S HAS found a new venue for its first U.S. acuction of rare and fine wines. It will be held at Chicago's famous department store, Marshall Field's, on Saturday, April 25, with a pre-auction tasting on the previous evening. Michael Broadbent, head of Christie's Wine Department in London, will conduct the sale. Originally scheduled for Dec 9 in New York, the auction was postponed when three New York retailers challenged the New York State Liquor Authority's right to issue permits for wine auctions.
Although Christie's is confident that it will eventually be able to hold its twice-yearly auctions in New York, it has been anxious to find another venue for the sale of the valuable collection of wines that had been assembled in New York before the last-minute postponement.
Rare items in the catalogue for April's auction include several pre-phylloxera bottles of Ch. Lafite and a collection of Ch. Latour dating from 1870. With the second aution scheduled for fall, Christie's of New York is looking for wines, to be sold on behalf of private individuals. By law, wines offered for sale must be at least 15 years old, which means that Christie's is accepting vintages up to and including 1967.
The owners of Bordeaux's prestigious Chateau La Mission-Haut-Brion have bought 182 acres of mountainside vineyard land in the Napa Valley, near St. 'helena. In Washington for a vertical tasting of a La Mission, Francoise and Francis Dewavrin Woltner were very pleased with their American acquisition, but said that it would be four or five years before they would get the redevelopment plans for the pre-Prohibition-era property fully underway.
Originally named "New Medoc" by its first French owners, 19th-century immigrants, the winery fell into disrepair during Prohibition; and today, the old vine stumps are shadowed by 60-year-old pines. Francis Woltner did say that some sauvignon blanc and semillon vines would be planted within the next year.
While in D.C., Francoise Woltner, who inherited La Mission-Haut-Brion from her father, Henri, signed the label of a double magnum of 1919 La Mission, owned by Addy Bassin of MacArthur Liquors.
The wines and the image are changing at Taylor New York's Hammondsport winery. A producer of table, fortified and sparkling wines, Taylor is upgrading part of its Taylor and Great Western ranges. Domestic Carisetti, senior winemaker in Hammondsport, was in Washington to conduct a tasting of the recently launched Taylor Empire Cream Sherry, and spoke of the new developments.
Great Western will be releasing a Special Selection label for vintage-dated hybrid varietals: Aurora Blanc, Verdelet, Rose of DeChaunac, Vidal Blanc and Cayuga White. Expressing confidence in the future of hybrids, particularly whites, in the Finger Lakes, Carisetti said that the improved quality of these wines was in step with an increasingly sophisticated consumer taste, away from old-style Eastern wines. Carisetti, a graduate of the University of California at Davis School of Enology, continued: "The technology in the Eastern wineries is as good as California. It's just that we're making a different product, which takes time to gain consumer acceptance."
The new-image Taylor has made an impressive start with the Empire Cream Sherry. A smooth, rich-but-not-heavy wine, it is a match for many of the more expensive Spanish cream sherries, and retails in D.C. for about $5.50. An initial baking process removes any hint of the 45 percent concord grape content.The wine is then aged in wood for 20 months, to give it complexity, and a minimum of 10 months in bottle, to allow the blend to soften and mellow.