21 Ultimate Gifts: Securing a Vault

  • Sheila Gibson Stoodley

The Gift
A three-year lease on the last available wine vault at Adour, Alain Ducasse’s new restaurant at the St. Regis Hotel, New York. — Seven bottles of various Domaine de la Romanée Conti vintages from Ducasse’s wine cellar.
$725,000

Manhattan real estate is so absurdly expensive that, regardless of your means, it can be difficult to justify allotting apartment space for a wine cellar. The alternative is to rent a locker in a wine-storage facility; greater New York City is now home to at least 10 of these businesses. The real estate crunch affects restaurants just as severely, but French chef Alain Ducasse nonetheless made room for 50 wine vaults at his new restaurant, Adour, which will open in the St. Regis Hotel, New York, in January. Ducasse intends to offer more than just storage space. "The vaults are part of a larger wine program that we are trying to set up in Adour," says Thomas Combescot, the head sommelier at Adour and also the wine director at the St. Regis.

Each leather and bronze vault at the restaurant will hold 12 standard-size (750 ml) bottles. As a renter, you also will receive perks including the ability to bring your own wines into the restaurant and to have the sommeliers prepare a wine from your vault, decanting and aerating the bottles hours before you arrive. You will be presented with a personalized wine list that details the contents of the vault and includes suggestions based on what the sommeliers have learned about your preferences. Also, you will have a standing invitation to the restaurant’s monthly wine director tastings, at which the sommeliers meet importers and distributors and sample vintages that they might purchase for Adour. "The additional services are intended to create a relationship with the guests," Combescot says. "They will help to create the feeling that you own a piece of the restaurant."

In addition to offering a three-year lease on the last available wine vault—instead of the one-year leases that the other 49 renters hold—Ducasse will stock the vault with seven bottles of the rare red Burgundy Domaine de la Romanée Conti from his own cellar. He has selected the 1990, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2003, and 2004 vintages. "Ducasse never opens his cellar to other people," Combescot says. "The beauty of it is these wines traveled right from the estate to his cellar. You can be 100 percent sure they’re in perfect condition because of that."

The gift also includes a five-night stay in the St. Regis’ Presidential Suite, six one-night stays in a St. Regis suite, and a dinner for four that Alain Ducasse will create with the Romanée Conti 1990 in mind; Adour executive chef Tony Esnault will prepare the meal. "I imagine a dish within the menu that would simultaneously play on a seasonal preparation and the characteristics of this powerful wine," says Esnault, speculating that Ducasse might suggest a main course of New York state venison with polenta if the meal is served in winter.

When you decant the Burgundy, consider giving a glass to Combescot. "I put Romanée Conti on my Christmas list and I never get it," he says, half joking. "It’s one of the most exclusive, expensive, hard-to-get wines in the world. If you want to make me happy, buy me Romanée Conti. I’ll be your best friend ever."

If the restaurant meets Ducasse’s lofty standards, Adour could be a good place to have a friend.

St. Regis Hotel, 212.505.8200, meg@megconnolly.com

{ The price includes the cost of flying to and from New York aboard a Gulfstream V private jet for the five-night stay. The six single-night visits do not include transportation. }

Photo by Jim Fets
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