The idea began back in 2009, when the company’s heads, Marchesi de Francobaldi and Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja, created a new initiative to celebrate each new vintage of the “Super Tuscan” wine. Ornellaia, a big red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot grapes, was anointed the Wine Spectator “wine of the year” in 2001, for the 1998 vintage, and has consistently been rated one of the best in the world ever since. Since 2009, the company has commissioned a world-famous artist to create exclusive bottle labels for each new vintage, as well as a piece of art that goes on display at the estate.
Some of those individually signed special bottles are then auctioned off at a gala dinner supporting the arts – and that’s where the Hammer Museum came in this year, benefiting from the eighth edition of the Vendemmia d’Artista. Japanese artist Yutaka Sone (who’s based in Pasadena) created a series of bottle labels for the 2013 Ornellaia L’Eleganza; at the May 19 gala, nine of those bottles went for auction by Sotheby’s, with all the proceeds going to the Hammer Museum, to benefit their collections, exhibitions and public free programs.
The L.A. party started in the Hammer’s beautiful courtyard, where a Chanel-clad Sone proudly showed off the bottles he designed, then moved upstairs to an elegant dinner space. Everyone was excited to try the 2013 Ornellaia vintage, which just released for sale, as well as the 2003, along with the 2013 Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia (a Sauvignon Blanc-based white) and the 2013 Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia red blend, especially since they were to be paired with Chef Suzanne Goin’s incredible fare.
Goin, who just made Los Angeles proud by being named the James Beard Foundation’s 2016 Outstanding Chef of the Year for her fantastic work at Lucques (she also helms A.O.C., Tavern, The Hungry Cat and The Larder at Burton Way), made everyone smile with her flavorful courses of diver scallops with black rice, mushrooms and asparagus over polenta and beef tenderloin with chestnuts and toasted faro, perfect pairings for the Ornellaia wines. In fact, that’s what Goin said to the sated crowd – “It’s a privilege to have my food paired with the lovely Ornellaia wines.”
Then the fun got started, as Sotheby’s Andrea Fiuczynski auctioned off those impressive, artistic big bottles of wine, including the mother of them all, the nine-liter Salamanazar of the 2013 Ornellaia, encased in a marble basket-like sculpture created by Yutaka Sone. When all the bidding excitement was over, $128,000 was the haul, all donated to the Hammer Museum. And that made everyone who loves art and wine smile, too.