Michael Milken, founder and Chairman of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, predicted a cure to the disease by 2016 Tuesday night at the 18th A Night to Remember. Then the crowd of about 190, led by the host as well as editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado Marvin Shanken, did its best to make it come true, raising more than a million dollars for research.
The dinner event lived up to its name by giving cigar-loving guests an elegant venue—New York’s legendary Four Seasons restaurant—to indulge in a fantasy selection of premium smokes. The auction included 14 lots of incomparable cigar, wine, spirit, golf and travel packages. Furthermore, an anonymous donation of $500,000 got the fundraising off to a brilliant start.
As usual the event opened with a cocktail party in the restaurant’s Grill Room, where guests were treated to a selection of donated cigars, including Aging Room, Arturo Fuente Don Carlos, A. Turrent Puro Corojo, Casa Magna Colorado, Davidoff, Diamond Crown Julius Caeser, E.P. Carrillo Maduro, My Father Le Bijou 1922, Gurkha Cellar Reserve, Hoyo de Monterrey Reposado en Cedros, La Flor Dominicana El Museo, La Palina El Diario, Montecristo New York Edition, Nat Sherman Timeless Collection, Padilla Artemis and Studio Tobac Figurado, Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial, Padrón 1964 Anniversary Maduro, Partagas 1845, Rocky Patel Decade and Fifteenth Anniversary, Romeo y Julieta Cabinet Selection, Tatuaje La Vérité Vintage 2009 Cabinet and Zino Platinum Crown Series Barrel. Moët & Chandon Brut Champagne Impérial NV was poured for the smokers.
The event began in earnest in the modernist Pool Room where guests sat down to a lavish dinner that started with hors d’oeuvres and an outstanding wine: M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage White Les Meysonniers 2010 (rated 92 in Wine Spectator).
Shanken announced the anonymous donation and introduced Milken, who briefed the crowd on the recent strides taken in the fight against prostate cancer. Four new therapies have been developed in the past year, many of which have no side effects, he said.
Milken added that a simple urine test is being promoted to diagnose the disease, and soon we will live in an era of personalized medicine when doctors will be able to customize treatment, knowing in advance how patients will react to medicine.
In a tradition of the evening, Shanken offered five bottles from his own cellar that were presented for auction wrapped in paper bags. “It could be Riunite or something good,” he joked to the potential buyers. Diners were also reminded that part of the ritual was that buyers were expected to open the bottles on site and share them with their tables.
The first bottle, a Château Margaux 2000 vintage, which rated 100 points in Wine Spectator, went for $18,000 to broadcaster Rush Limbaugh. The next, a Château Latour 1990, which was the magazine’s wine of the year and was also a 100-point wine, went for $14,000 to the beverage and gaming magnate Tom Celani. Another Wine Spectator 100-point wine, a double magnum of Château Mouton Rothschild 1989 fetched $22,000, selling to Robert Levin, president of Ashton Distributors.
A Château Haut-Brion 1990, ranked 98 points by Wine Spectator, brought $25,000 and went to Pierluigi Tolaini, who owns a Canadian trucking company. Shanken unwrapped the last bottle offered, a 1927 Taylor Vintage Port that sold for $22,000 to Michael Gelband of Millennium Management, and announced it as “the vintage of the century—priceless!”
In a change from protocol the 14 lots described in the event’s catalog were all auctioned before dinner began. The first lot—two limited-edition humidors each containing 100 cigars from the Padrón Millennium Series from the year 2000 donated by Padrón Cigars—was won by the attorney Doug Wood for $41,000.
An all-inclusive vacation with premium airfare to Casa de Campo to play two rounds on Pete Dye’s renowned Teeth of the Dog course went to David Nolan of Millennium Management for $20,000. The lot also included a handcrafted humidor with the first production of 100 cigars of the Montecristo #2 New York Connoisseur Edition and was provided courtesy of Javier Estades of Altadis USA.
Milken, himself, took the third, a collection of the world’s finest wines donated by Chris Adams, CEO of Sherry-Lehmann, for $28,000. The wines all rated between 95 and 100 points in Wine Spectator, including three with perfect ratings.
A bottle of 44-year-old Gold Bowmore single-malt Scotch whisky, distilled in 1964 and donated by Gerry Ruvo, CEO of Campari, made up the next lot and was also bought by Nolan, this time for $10,000. NetJets provided a five-hour flight package in a Cessna Citation Sovereign as the next lot, which was snapped up by David Trone, a founder of Total Wine & More.
Rocky Patel Premium Cigars offered a day with its founder and namesake as the sixth lot, which also included 266 cigars and a round of golf at Old Corkscrew in Naples, Florida, with three suites at La Playa Beach and Golf Resort. It was taken by Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, for $12,000.
Lot seven, donated by Larry Schwartz, president of Diageo North America, was a special tasting with a Master of Whisky and 20 guests at the winner’s home to sample the Johnnie Walker portfolio of the Blue, Gold, Green, Black and Red Labels. The chairman and CEO of the Charmer Sunbelt Group Charlie Merinoff took the lot for $18,000.
Another golf package, this one a five-day stay for two at The Breakers in Palm Beach with unlimited golf at its two courses, plus a selection of 288 cigars from Ashton, was donated by David Burke, vice president of the resort, and Levin of Ashton. Levin took home his own prize for $18,000.
Lot nine was an evening of opulence at New York’s Club Macanudo for 100 guests, including wines, spirits, hors d’oeuvres, dessert and entertainment as well as 340 cigars. Dan Carr, president of the General Cigar Company, made the donation, and it was bought by Wood for $20,000.
Jim Clerkin, president of Moët Hennessy provided lot ten, five days of golf and single-malt Scotch with Glenmorangie. Gelband and three of his guests will tour the Highlands distillery as well as other points of interest and play two rounds of golf. The package, which went for $32,000, also includes six bottles of Glenmorangie, including a 25-year-old and the new expression Artein.
The chance to jump the waiting list for the Els for Autism Charity Pro-Am Golf Tournament was offered up in the 11th lot. The winner—Milken—and his guests will play in the tournament and attend the pairings dinner with such golf standouts as Ernie Els, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. The money raised—$25,000—will go to the autism charity.
Exclusive membership at the Grand Havana Room in New York and Beverly Hills, courtesy of its president Stan Shuster, was the basis for the next lot, which also included a dinner for eight with wines donated by Shanken and his wife, Hazel, and a box of Fuente Fuente OpusX cigars. William Sherman, executive vice president of Nat Sherman, bid $22,000 to join the cigar club.
Levin took the next lot for $23,000 and with it the chance to create his own 30-year-old Glenfiddich single-malt Scotch. The package, donated by Simon Hunt, managing director of William Grant & Sons, includes a behind-the-scenes tour of the dunnage warehouses with the malt master as well as samplings from select barrels and a four-day stay in the Torrent House on the grounds.
The last lot, a collection of 453 Fuente cigars went to Celani for $23,000. It includes 11 boxes of select Fuente Fuente OpusX cigars, plus The Lost City version, a box of Casa Fuente and three Don Carlos Aniversario boxes. Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia provided the package.
With business out of the way, guests set to enjoying their scrumptious meal, starting with the Four Seasons’ signature wild mushroom risotto. Rack of lamb with Chanterelle, Rösti potatoes and black truffle sauce made up the main course. It was paired with Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Special Selection 2007, which scored 96 points in Wine Spectator. Chocolate Mousse and petit fours followed.
Also speaking at the event were the basketball star John Salley, a perennial favorite, Limbaugh, Alan Rubin, owner of Alec Bradley Cigars, Gordon Mott, the executive editor of Cigar Aficionado, Giuliani, and Chuck Wagner of Caymus Wines.
As the meal concluded, waiters passed out the dinner cigars, contained in bags supplied by Humidipak, and including the top three cigars of the year: (in order from first to third) Alec Bradley Prensado Churchill, La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Belicoso and Illusione Epernay Le Taureau. The package also included a lighter and pocket humidor provided by Xikar.
As well as the celebrities who spoke, many of the diners made up a virtual Who's Who of the cigar industry, including Matt Arcella of the Davidoff shops in Las Vegas, Michael Giannini, Victoria McKee, Benji Menendez and Ricky Rodriquez of General Cigar Co., Javier Estades and Janelle Rosenfeld of Altadis, Wayne Suarez of Arturo Fuente, Janny Garcia of My Father Cigars, Rafael Nodal of Habana Cuba Cigar Company, Tony Gomez of La Flor Dominicana, Pete Johnson of Tatuaje, Sathya Levin of Ashton, Les Mann of Colibri, Eric Newman of J.C. Newman, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Sr. and Jr. from EPC Cigar Co., Jorge Padrón of Padrón, Bill Paley of La Palina, Alejandro Turrent of Te-Amo cigars.