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Brandy's Best

American Brandy Distilled in the Traditional Methods of Cognac Is Starting To Come of Age
Jean T. Barrett
From the Print Edition:
Linda Evangelista, Autumn 95

(continued from page 4)

Coale has limited the offering to 100 casks and says he has sold 43 so far. "We have one guy who bought his cask in August of '94 and he just ordered his fourth case of brandy," Coale says with some incredulity in his voice. "I think he has a lot of business clients."

Carneros Alambic's private barrel offering includes a blending session with the cellar master and access to the distillery's oldest stocks to fill a 63-liter (15 gallon) barrel, plus the added inducement of overnight accommodations for two at a nearby inn for both the blending session and the bottling session, for a price of $6,000.

With the barrel yielding about six cases of brandy, this offering is not for the fainthearted, but a number of individuals have figured out creative ways to make it work. Jim Myerson, president of Wine Warehouse, which distributes Carneros Alambic brandies in California, brought the Gamma Forum of the Los Angeles chapter of the Young Presidents Organization to the distillery for a visit, and the members "snapped it up," according to Myerson. The only problem was that during the subsequent blending session, the two CEOs entrusted with the task couldn't come to terms on the blend. Bernard La Borie settled the tiff by offering to custom-blend a barrel of each of the two blends; the YPOers can choose between them at the time of bottling or take half of each blend. (Myerson says he suspects La Borie is hoping they'll pop for the two entire barrels.)

Paul Nerger, a computer executive based in Beaverton, Oregon, put together a small partnership and sold subscriptions to a Carneros Alambic private barrel to five friends, who each will end up with a case of custom brandy. When Nerger initially broached the idea to a friend with whom he was visiting Carneros Alambic, the man blanched. "That's a lot of money," he said. "You don't understand," countered Nerger. "When else will you get an opportunity to blend your own brandy? We'll just bring in other people."

Nerger scheduled the bottling session to coincide with the 1995 Napa Valley Wine Auction, turning the event into a weekend of festivity. And since the first partnership worked so well--it ended up being oversubscribed and a couple of partners are splitting their case--he might do it again. "You can have the barrel after bottling," he muses, "but it seems a shame to take this old Cognac barrel and let it go to waste."


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