The Wine Cellar
The Wine Cellar at Crabtree’s Kittle House Restaurant and Inn
The year was 1990 and John Crabtree’s idea was to create one of the greatest restaurant wine lists in the world. Grounded in the belief that great winemakers make great wine, we set out to learn who the world’s greatest winemakers were – the talented people making the most compelling and delicious wines of their type, creating the greatest expressions of a special place, the grapes that grow there and that winemaker’s vision of how that wine should taste.
When we started our wine journey, the Kittle House wine list had about 150 selections and the wine cellar held a few thousand bottles and took up a small fraction of the space compared to what it is today. Both the list and the cellar grew very fast. We invited winemaker’s to the Kittle House for winemaker dinners and travelled to meet them on their estates and in their vineyards. We started in California with the wines from legendary producers like Mondavi, Caymus, Groth, Spottswoode and Dunn and from the new guard like Marcassin, Peter Michael, Bryant, Colgin and Turley. We then went to France and procured wines from the big boys in Bordeaux and Burgundy – Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Mouton, DRC, Coche-Dury, Leflaive, Dujac. Then we moved on to the Rhone Valley, the Loire, Alsace, Champagne and the rest of France, then on to Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Northwest. So many great winemakers, so many great wines!
In each place we would ask those great winemakers who, besides them, were making the best wines in the region. And they would direct us to a small winery or vineyard, usually unknown except only to those in the region, and we would track them down, taste them, buy them and put them on the list and in the cellar. The further off the beaten path they were the better as we loved turning our customers on to something they never had before – an obscure grape or remote wine region – as long as it was something special. The reputation of the list and cellar started to grow and we became a wine and food destination for those who shared our passion.
In 1994, the list had grown to 3000 selections and we had over 40,000 bottles in the cellar. We were selected as one of only 50 or so restaurants in the world to receive the Wine Spectator Grand Award – the highest level of recognition for a restaurant that is passionate and dedicated to presenting the very best wine, food and service. We flew to San Francisco to receive the award and stood among some of our favorite restaurants in the world and peers in the industry. We made time to visit some of those great winemakers who, over the years, had become good friends of ours – Tony Soter of Etude, Helen Turley of Marcassin, The Novak Family at Spottswoode, who hosted a wonderful dinner at their home in honor of our award. It was an amazing and wonderful time for Crabtree’s Kittle House and for us personally as our commitment to the marriage of great wine and food had put us on top of the restaurant world.
The list would continue to grow over the next twenty years and the cellar would peak at 65,000 bottles and the list at 7500 selections. We had always bought more than we sold, amassing this huge collection of wine in the cellar. In 2008, we decided, for the first time in almost three decades, to focus our energy on selling more than buying and as a result, we now have about 40,000 bottles in the cellar and 4000 selections to choose from. We sold a lot of wine that was ready to drink, many at their peak of the evolution process and with full secondary flavor development, thanks to the slow, cold maturation process that our cellar affords – we provided many a wonderful, often profound, wine and food experience.
Now it’s 2015, and we are still buying many of the greatest wines in the world. Not as many as once before – we have become a little more selective as we have gotten older – but enough to keep the deep verticals growing and to continue to provide the wonderful, often profound, wine and food experiences at Crabtree’s Kittle House. We look forward to the opportunity of providing one of those experiences for you.