July 25, 2014
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From the Editor

NWWF Wine Lots: The 'Most Spectacular'and the One That Got Away

As vintner liaison (“I’ve been called a whole lot worse”) for the Naples Winter Wine Festival for the past seven years, Bruce Nichols might well be tagged the man who puts the wine in our world-class wine fest. So when he tells you that this year’s event features the “most spectacular wine lot I’ve ever seen,” notice must be paid.

What triggers such enthusiasm from a man who has spent 35 distinguished years in the food and wine service business here and abroad? It’s all about Mouton Rothschild, one of the most coveted wines in the world and the offering is one bottle of every vintage from 1945 through 2009. The renowned labels for these have been created by such legendary artists as Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso. And how did NWWF come by this treasure? “Bob Edwards (this year’s co-chair) brought it in,” Bruce says, without further elaboration. If the Perfection Lot (100 different wines given 100-point ratings) of 2011 went for $400,000, it’ll be interesting to see what the Mouton Rothschild collection will bring this year.

Meanwhile, Bruce’s passion for NWWF spills out in memories both sublime and, uh, not-so-sublime. In one breath he’ll tell you about being “deeply touched” talking to a 15-year-old boy seeing a dentist for the first time, thanks to a clinic on the Edison State College campus funded by NWWF proceeds. In the next, he grins and describes the time a celebrity chef for one of the Friday night dinners accepted a trustee invitation for nine holes of golf, stayed for 18 and arrived a half hour late for the dinner he was supposed to make. This did not exactly suit the hostess to a tee, even though the sous-chef stepped up to the plate to keep things on schedule.

Bruce has special regard for some of the regulars who’ve served the NWWF so loyally. “Dick and Ann Grace (boutique vintners in Napa Valley),” he says, “have been extremely generous.” Bruce says that every year since he has been here, they’ve donated two 12-liter bottles that are etched and hand-painted with the names of charities on them. “They often go for $50,000 and up,” says Bruce. And then there’s his unsung hero, Barrett Farmer, NWWF’s longest-serving employee, who is the festival coordinator, gatekeeper and the one person who can answer just about every question. “Without her,” Bruce says, “we wouldn’t cancel the event, but it would be a darn sight harder to bring it off.”

All the good fortune as vintner liaison notwithstanding—“from all over the world, vintners want to come to Naples for our event,” says Bruce—there’s one that’s gotten away from him. Screaming

Eagle, the ultimate California cult wine. “They’ve resisted,” says Bruce. “Billionaire owner Stan Kroenke is known to be publicity-shy.” Bruce knows Screaming Eagle’s young winemaker Nick Gislason and he’s for it. “I’m already working them for next year,” Bruce reports. Will Screaming Eagle be our next spectacular? Warm up your palate … and your wallet. Bruce is very, very determined.

READER ALERT

In the name of bringing you more value, we’ve added new features in the front of the magazine this month and pulled them together with a fresh, up-tempo look. Now, in addition to our popular regular features, you’ll learn shortcuts to avoid I-75 jam-ups in “Ahead of the Curve,” discover the five hottest nail polish colors in “Five Best,” learn about the safari trend in fashion and furnishings in ”Life/Style,” get tipped off to a cool, new drink in “Bottom’s Up,” meet social whirlwind Michele Eddy in “Profiles” and butcher-of-choice Jimmy P in “Artisans” and tag along with “Mr. Adventure” (Michael Korb) as he joins the kitchen staff for a night of creating good food at Sea Salt restaurant. Hope you enjoy all the action.

—David Sendler

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