You Can Now Buy 'Grapes' Guy John Steinbeck's Wine Cooler, Decanters, Tastevins

The Grapes of Wrath author was known to enjoy his wine, and some of his personal vinous accessories are now up for auction. Plus, Keanu Reeves takes the red glass in Sonoma, and an Illy coffee brew-off

You Can Now Buy 'Grapes' Guy John Steinbeck's Wine Cooler, Decanters, Tastevins
Of ice and men: John Steinbeck in 1964 (left); Steinbeck's engraved, silver-plated wine cooler (MARKA/Alamy / Imaged by Heritage Auctions, HA.com)
Oct 24, 2019

The great bard of California farmworkers, John Steinbeck, was himself a wine man, which should interest you, now that 40 items owned by the author are up for auction online through Oct. 27. Among them: a few fancy wine gizmos from the famed Monterey man and his third wife, Elaine's, collection. The estate's goal is to give fans “a front seat to seeing the in-depth knowledge of John Steinbeck, who he is and what he cared about,” Heritage Auctions Trusts and Estates representative Elyse Luray told Unfiltered.

John Steinbeck's wine accessories
Steinbeck's decanter-y row (Imaged by Heritage Auctions, HA.com)

Much of Steinbeck's fiction is set in his beloved Central Coast, Calif., including East of Eden and Tortilla Flat, and his family told Luray that the author enjoyed having a glass of red wine at the end of a long day, in true local form. The most intimate piece of wineware up for auction is a silver-plated wine cooler engraved with John and Elaine’s names and wedding date. “I’m a memorabilia specialist, and I’d like to say that some of the best pieces are the really unique ones and also the ones that are really personal,” Luray said. “And this is both.”

Three decanters, including two Waterfords, are also for sale; another lot, a set of four fanciful French silver and silver-plated tastevins, is currently priced for a proletarian hero at $31.

John Steinbeck's wine accessories
"Spiritually the jugs maybe graduated thus: Just below the shoulder of the first bottle, serious and concentrated conversation. Two inches farther down, sweetly sad memory…"—From Tortilla Flat. Tastevins are a handy way to keep track before the "unholy despondency" phase sets in! (Imaged by Heritage Auctions, HA.com)

Other highlights from the auction include a signed letter from JFK, a first-edition proof of dust-jacket art for The Grapes of Wrath (not, in fact, a wine accessory), original Steinbeck correspondence and typescripts, and his "warm-up" journal, which he once described as, "one of those interminable notebooks that serves no purpose but to warm me up and sometimes to cool me down," that also, you know, provides a glimpse into the daily life and struggles of one of the 20th century's literary greats. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that any of these will cure writer’s block, but according to Luray, “It gives off good vibes!” Bidding is open until Oct. 27, 2:50 p.m. Eastern Time.—S.Z.


Keanu Reeves Takes the Red Glass, Stops by Sonoma Winery

Before he was Neo, before he was John (Wick and Constantine), Keanu Reeves actually played the lead in a wine movie: For 1995's A Walk in the Clouds, Reeves filmed on location in Napa and Sonoma at A-list vineyards like Mayacamas, Beringer and Duckhorn. But the lukewarm reception to that film may have crashed the proverbial wine-cinema bus, for the time, and Reeves hasn't been seen in these pages since.

Keanu Reeves at Lambert Bridge
Strange things are afoot in the Dry Creek Valley. (Instagram/@lambertbridge)

But last weekend, Reeves and a chipper gang of biker friends were spotted cruising around Dry Creek Valley, making a stop at Lambert Bridge Winery. The winery played it cool in the star's presence, thanking the motorcycle company on Instagram—"the craftsmanship and quality of these bikes are amazing"—and only calling out the Keanu cameo in the hashtag #keanureeves. No word on what, if anything, Reeves drank, but we now suspect the famously ageless actor has been keeping up with his Mediterranean diet all along.—Ben O'Donnell


Colombian Ex-Fighters, Rwandan Growers Brew Big Wins at Illy Coffee Awards

At the fourth annual Ernesto Illy International Coffee Awards gala, coffee titan Illycaffè served up awards to some of the freshest, hottest Fair Trade growers in the grounds game last week. Hosted in the Appel Room at New York's Lincoln Center, the gala brought together Illy's best coffee growers, roasters and judges to toast the best of Coffea arabica.

Illy International Coffee Award winners
Asacafé roasters accept their award with Andrea Illy (second from right). (Courtesy of Illy)

Two awards were handed out during the night, both to single-origin beans and roasts of exceptional providence and make. Like wine, coffee at its best reflects the terroir in which it is grown. With a strong commitment to sustainable and Fair Trade sourcing—a theme throughout the night—Illy relies on arabica growers in nine countries, whose batches are combined into the coffeemaker's proprietary blends; these awards, however, honored individual teams and farms presenting special "single-origin" versions of their coffees.

Illy International Coffee Award winners
Celine Niwemugeni (second from left) and Massimiliano Pogliani, CEO of Illy (right). (Courtesy of Illy)

The "Coffee Lover's Choice Award"—a peoples' choice award—went to Rwanda's Ngororero Coffee Washing Station, located in the northwest of the country. Up next was the big prize, the "Best of the Best," decided by a panel of nine tasters in a series of blind tests across three preparation styles (12-hour cold brew, classic drip and espresso). This year's winner was Colombia's "Spirit of Peace Ex Combatants" made by the coffee growers and roasters Asacafé. "This award celebrates and honors the Spirit of Peace project, with the aim to give a chance to the rural Colombian community of coffee to become the engine of a bigger transformation through the economic reintegration of the ex-combatants and their victims in the Cauca region," said Illycaffé chairman Andrea Illy. (The Illy family also owns a number of wine concerns, including Mastrojanni and Podere Le Ripi.)

Accompanying the presentation of the awards was a multimedia collaboration between jazz pianist Danilo Ren, DJ Martux_M, videographers and dancers. For the soundtrack, Ren and Martux spent time in Ethiopia on a coffee farm and roaster, recording the sounds of coffee making—from the beans being picked and sorted, to the drying and roasting, to grinding—and basically setting that to a beat. Which we've now nominated "best new alarm-clock chime."—P.L.


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