Palm Beach Wine Auction's Ted And Cindy Mandes Spend 36 Hours In Napa Valley On The Hunt For The Kravis Center Fundraiser's Best Wine Selections
Each September, Ted and Cindy Mandes of West Palm Beach visit California's Napa Valley to taste and select wines to serve and sell at the annual Palm Beach Wine Auction, which benefits the children's education programs at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. This year, the Mandeses share some of their favorite vineyards, must-try wines and can't-miss restaurants in Napa Valley. Read on for indulgent vintages and the breathtaking beauty of Napa's rolling hills.
Not all of the Palm Beach Wine Auction vintages come from Napa—a 788-square-mile patch of earth blessed with the kind of weather that soil grapes find heavenly—but certainly, some of the very best do. Ted Mandes, founder and chair of the auction, visits Napa each fall, where he talks to vintners, tastes wine and learns which grapes and bottles are expected to mature into award-winners. These are the wines he seeks, so when the paddles fly on auction night in January, buyers know they'll be drinking something extraordinary. It's a business, as he sees it—the business of ensuring quality arts education for children in the years to come. All work and no play? Hardly. This is Napa Valley, after all.
Friday: San Francisco
6 p.m. — Moussaka and martinis
Ted and Cindy Mandes begin in the City by the Bay, where certain San Fran rituals are a must: the Omni near Union Square and the Stockton and Powell streets shopping district (where the eternally chic Wilkes Bashford is first on the list); baseball-sized popovers with strawberry butter at The Rotunda in Neiman Marcus; and, of course, more decadent food and drink at every turn. Pre-dinner cocktails at the Scarlet Huntington Hotel in Nob Hill provide spectacular scenery and good company, especially if Ty the bartender is mixing the martinis. From there, it's a mile down toward the Embarcadero and Kokkari Estiatorio for dinner. “Reservations two weeks ahead are mandatory, as their Greek cuisine was the best we've ever had,” Cindy Mandes says. (Kokkari Estiatorio, 200 Jackson St., 415.981.0983, kokkari.com)
Saturday: The Valley
10 a.m. — Hard to get
After an early drive north into the Valley, the Mandeses join their friends Madeline and Roderic Fink, and Christine and Martin Rivard (all members of the auction's committee) to kick off a full day of tastings. (Pro tip: skip the driving while wine tasting and cover rough farm roads and steep mountain driveways in an SUV chauffeured by Patrick Hennessey of Napa Valley Excursions & Wine Tours, 707.363.3845, napavalleyexcursions.com.) At Beau Vigne, the group meets with owners Ed and Trish Snider. “He is making some of the best wines of his career,” Ted says. “And we tasted all six of them, including his 2014 Bacigalupi, which will be served with the first course at the 2016 Wine Auction.” (The Tasting Room at Beau Vigne, 6795 Washington St., Yountville, 707.947.7058, beauvigne.com).
Vineyard 7 & 8 is an up-and-comer to the Wine Auction—a 40-acre property at the top of Spring Mountain in St. Helena. “It's breathtaking, totally unobstructed views with ramrod straight vines as far as we could see,” Cindy says. Vines planted there in the 1980s by legendary chardonnay maker John Kongsgaard are now producing—the 2013 received rave reviews. “I see this estate becoming more important as the years go on—they will definitely be part of our future,” Ted says. (Vineyard 7 & 8, 4028 Spring Mountain Road, St. Helena, 707.963.9425, vineyard7and8.com).
1 p.m. — Room with a view
Gifted with a bottle of the prized 2013 chardonnay from Vineyard 7 & 8, the Mandeses and guests stop for a BYOB lunch at Market in St. Helena, where everyone refuels on gourmet goodies, from avocado BLTs to pepper-crusted steak medallions. (Market, 1347 Main St., St. Helena, 707.963.3799, marketsthelena.com). From there it's onto the Rudd Oakville Estate winery—always a favorite—where the tasting was held in the estate's new glass boathouse with stunning lake views. “Leslie Rudd has truly built an ‘estate' in every way,” Ted says. “From the new state-of-the-art aging vats to having his own team working out in the vineyards instead of hiring out the farming, Rudd shows that nothing is left to chance in the wine-making.” Ted marks the Estate, Samantha and Edge Hill vintages as ones that have matured nicely since his last visit. (Rudd Oakville Estate, 500 Oakville Crossroad, 707.944.8577, ruddwines.com).
7 p.m. — Farm-to-table treats
The Rudd Oakville Estate also grows fruit and produce, much of which ends up on the table at Rudd's restaurant, PRESS, where chef Trevor Kunk (one of the featured chefs at the 2015 Wine Auction) helms the kitchen. Among the popular starters is the vegetable cocktail, a medley of colorful, farm-fresh crudité arranged on shaved ice, seafood-style. With a selection of dipping sauces, it's refreshing in the Valley heat. “Less creative types would likely put oysters on the half shell in there, but Trevor makes it look like a beach in the Seychelles!” Cindy says. “Eating in Napa and Sonoma is like being in Burgundy or Provence,” Ted says. “Everything is fresh, ripe and real. The food tastes and smells the way you dream it should.” (PRESS, 587 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, 707.967.0550, pressnapavalley.com).
Sunday: The Tastings Continue
10 a.m. — Lattes and lemony pancakes
Before they leave the North Block Hotel in Yountville, the Mandeses book their room for the following year—that's how much they enjoy this boutique collection of 20 guest rooms situated around a courtyard like a Tuscan village square. And no visit to Napa is complete without chef Richard Reddington's fluffy lemon ricotta pancakes with warmed maple syrup in the hotel's Redd Wood restaurant. Ted's double-shot latte fortifies for the tastings ahead (northblockhotel.com; redd-wood.com). For a grab-and-go breakfast, don't miss the croissants at Bouchon Bakery, part of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group (bouchonbistro.com). Meetings with Mark Carter of Carter Cellars and Beverly Shotwell of Colgin are a fine start. “Both of these wineries are dedicated to making some of the best wine in all of the Valley,” Ted says, who delights in the 2005 Cariad and the IX Estate at Colgin, as well as three of Carter's Beckstoffer to Kalon cabernets: The O.G., The Grand Daddy and The Three Kings. Carter, a childhood friend of Auction Co-Chair and International Ambassador Patrick Park “believes in the Auction and the Kravis Center's mission for the kids,” Cindy says. “But he also had so much fun at the last Auction he told us he's definitely coming back in 2016.” (Carter Cellars Tasting Room at Envy Wines, 1170 Tubbs Lane, Calistoga, 707.942.4670, cartercellars.com; Colgin is not open to the public for tastings or tours, but welcomes oenophiles to register on its private client correspondence list, colgincellars.com).
3 p.m. — A walk in the clouds
Close to Ted's heart is Antica, the winery atop Atlas Peak that grows the grapes to produce the prized Townsend Single Vineyard 2013. “Piero Antinori certainly fulfilled his dream to find the perfect plot of land to best duplicate the Tuscan varietals that his famous family has grown for six centuries,” Cindy says. The name “Antica,” she points out, was created by combining “Antinori” and “California.” “The Marchese only spends a few weeks a year on the property, so he has entrusted his longtime winemaker Glen Salva to oversee the 1,200-acre estate. The main house and adjoining outdoor trellised terrace looks like it could be perched on the Amalfi Coast.” (Antica, 3700 Soda Canyon Road, Napa, 707.257.8700, anticanapavalley.com).
Great Wines to Give and Get
Back at home in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Wine Auction Chair Ted Mandes and his wife, Cindy, look for great wines locally they can share during the holidays. The couple likes to stroll a few blocks to visit friend and Master Sommelier Virginia Philip, whose Wine Shop & Academy on Clematis Street houses 450 exceptional vintages. “The holidays are about family and friends,” Ted says. “Sharing the bounty, and making memories filled with love and the understanding of how lucky we are to be together.” Here, the Mandeses and Philip share a few favorites—from splurges to steals—to gift the hosts of your holiday gatherings. Or perhaps, this list is for Santa.
The Bollinger Spectre 007 Vintage 2009, France: “Yes that is correct, ‘007' as in James Bond,” Ted says. “At $225 a bottle, it's in the ‘dream' category.” ($225)
Araujo Vineyard Altagracia, Napa: “This winery has pedigree—it's owned by the people who make Château Latour,” Philip says. ($164)
Domaine de la Côte Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills: “Certain aficionados don't think sophisticated pinot noir is available from California,” Ted says. “This will change their minds.” ($101)
Pahlmeyer 2013 Chardonnay, Napa: “This is an excellent wine, a great year and a great winemaker,” Ted says. “And at $90, a good price for a hard-to-find producer.” ($90)
Viña Arana 2005 Rioja, Spain: “This one's medium bodied made from 100 percent Tempranillo,” Philip says. ($34)
Gussalli Beretta 2008 Franciacorta, Lombardy, Italy: “This sparkler is made in the Champagne style and it has nice notes of mineral, Granny Smith apple and white flowers,” Philip says. ($29)
Château Haut Selve 2012 Bordeaux Blanc, France: “It's made from sauvignon blanc sémillon blend, a bit more voluptuous with a beeswax honey note,” Philip says. ($23)
IF YOU GO: The 9th Annual Palm Beach Wine Auction
About: Since its inception, the Palm Beach Wine Auction has raised a net $2.4 million for the education programs at the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach.
Date: Jan. 21 at 6 p.m.
Location: The Mar-a-Lago Club, Palm Beach
Chairs: Ted Mandes, Chair; Patrick Park, Co-Chair and International Ambassador
Honorees: Barbara Evans Golden, Jane M. Mitchell, Monika E. Preston, Laurie S. Silvers, Kathryn C. Vecellio and Lee Wolf
Tickets: $1,000, by invitation
Contact: 561.651.4320; palmbeachwineauction.org