Twenty-five mixed cases of Bordeaux, Burgundy and German Riesling that once belonged to President John F. Kennedy have a new home in the cellar of Nice Matin, a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence-winning restaurant on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
Nice Matin wine director Guy Goldstein purchased the wines in July from a seller who does not want to be identified. The collection includes 30 classified-growth Bordeaux bottlings. Among them are Château Mouton-Rothschild 1864, 1874, 1893, 1934 and 1945; Château Margaux 1944 and 1949; Château Latour 1865, 1954 and 1959; Château Lafite Rothschild 1899, 1944 and 1945; and Château Haut-Brion 1949 and 1955.
The most expensive offering is the Mouton-Rothschild 1864, which the restaurant is selling for $14,000. Many of the Bordeaux are priced from $3,000 to $5,000. But a bottle from J.F.K.'s collection can be had for as little as $200 -- the Domdechant Werner'sches Riesling Spätlese Rheingau Hochheimer Rouchloch 1945.
The seller of the wines is believed to be the Santo Family Group, which used to own Manhattan restaurants such as Sign of the Dove; in 1971, the group purchased the 55-case collection that had belonged to Kennedy and was cellared by the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan.
Goldstein met with the seller and opened what he deemed "the worst-looking bottle in each lot." All but one of those bottles showed well (a second bottle of the spoiled wine showed well), and the purchase was made.
"It took me a few hours," Goldstein said. "By the time I was done, I was pretty sold on the whole thing." Many of the wines had been recorked and resealed over the years by visiting château employees. The fill levels on most of the wines were good -- around mid-shoulder level -- and labels were in very good shape, he added.
Goldstein said he found it impossible to contain his excitement as he looked through the bottles, now in the cellar at Nice Matin. "I would never in my life have gotten, in one piece, a collection with a better name behind it. When you drink a Kennedy wine, it's a moment in time you capture."
So far, the restaurant has sold seven of the bottles to diners. There are plans in the works to auction off dinners that will include wines from the Kennedy collection. A larger charity event involving the wines is possible as well.
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