What’s better than getting your hands on a rare bottle of Gemstone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon? Having the only jeroboam of their 2019 VIP barrel selection encrusted in 120 rubies. The small estate-grown cabernet producer from Napa Valley has partnered with Silicon Valley’s go-to jeweler, Stephen Silver, to offer the unique lot in the upcoming V Foundation Wine Celebration “Momentum 2.0” digital auction to take place on August 8. Founded by ESPN and Jim Valano, the late legendary basketball coach of North Carolina State University, the foundation has raised money for cancer research since 1993.
The bottle on offer was the brainchild of Gemstone Vineyard’s Amy Marks Dornbusch and Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry’s Jared Silver, who both serve on the board of the V Foundation Wine Celebration. While the symbiosis in their company names might seem like the obvious foundation for a pairing, the two share a connection that goes back to their roots.
“We purchased Gemstone from its original proprietors [Paul Frank] back in 2008, but the founder was a gemologist, which is where the name comes from,” says Dornbusch. “Jared’s father worked for him sorting pave diamonds when he was getting his start in the jewelry business. It was one of those six degrees of separation kind of things.” Jared, who is the son of Stephen Silver, says his father went to work for Frank when he graduated from the Gemological Institution of America. “I’ve actually found bottles of Gemstone in our house that go all the way back to 1998 or 1997.”
The vineyard is known for growing its own fruit and turning out high-end cabernet on its 6-acre spread in Yountville on the edge of Napa Valley—an area known as “the golden triangle” for its unique diversity in soil that turns out quality wines. Gemstone makes just 1,500 cases a year and its latest project is the Ruby selection, named after Dornbusch’s first-born daughter and developed in partnership with elite winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown.
“For this wine, it’s just three to four barrels out of all of our production,” says Dornbusch. “We taste all of our barrels and make a special selection with Thomas, that’s really the best possible selection from our vineyard. It’s usually around 75 to 100 cases and it’s sold exclusively to our mailing list and we always sell out. But we’ve never done a large format before so this should be pretty special.”
That is quite an understatement. The bottle, which was hand-selected from a glassmaker, will come adorned in 120 rubies totaling over 5 carats, compliments of Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry. “We’ve actually never manufactured something like this before, so it’s been a little bit of an experimentation for our jewelers,” says Silver. The gems will be hand-set into etchings in the bottle. But the icing on the cake is that once the owner consumes the bottle, Stephen Silver will remove the rubies to make a custom piece of jewelry. “It’s also going to come in a very impressive jeroboam-size jewelry box that’s almost like an armoire that you can open up and display in your wine cellar,” says Silver.
And in case you need a reason to get your hands on Gemstone’s Ruby selection, Dornbusch has a pretty ingenious idea. “Our wines can easily be aged for 20 to 25 years—the longer the format of the bottle, the longer they can age,” says Dornbusch. “Of course, it could be enjoyed sooner than that but I was just thinking to myself, ‘What an amazing birth-year wine this would be for anyone who has a daughter born in 2019. They could open it when she turns 21 and she could have an incredible bottle to share with her friends and then have a beautiful piece of jewelry made.” How is that for a graduation present?
To top it off, the lot will also come with a special dinner with the Dornbuschs and Silvers to enjoy Gemstone’s library of wines along with a special guest chef, to be arranged at a future date.
While a starting bid hasn’t yet been established for the bottle, Dornbusch says they are considering a “buy it now” option to the tune of $50,000. But should they make good on that offer, another bottle would be put up for the live auction lot.
“This is the first year we have experimented with a virtual auction,” says Dornbusch of the wine-focused fundraiser, which is normally held in-person in Napa Valley. “We’re utilizing an online bidding platform called Greater Giving. Typically, we have between 30 to 35 auction lots, but this year we have pared it down and are really trying to concentrate the donor dollars into seven really great packages.”
Other lots include a VIP experience at the 2021 Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, a dream vacation package courtesy of Exclusive Resorts and Cakebread Cellars, and tickets to the 29th annual ESPY awards.