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California restaurant secures largest ever collection of Château d’Yquem

The Stonehouse Restaurant in Santa Barbara now has the biggest selection of Yquem wines in the world.

Instagram @yquem

Bottles of Château d’Yquem wines regularly fetch upwards of £3,000 at auction. Now, one restaurant in California has managed to amass the largest collection of these highly-sought-after expressions.

The Stonehouse Restaurant, located inside San Ysidro Ranch, Santa Barbara, has added 138 vintages of d’Yquem to its already impressive cellar, encompassing every year from 1887 to 2008. Additional select vintages also form part of the collection, dating as far back as 1811, a year often described as the “comet vintage,” due to the comet that was spotted just before harvest. Only 10 bottles of this vintage exist worldwide.

“The new allocation of Château d’Yquem reinforces our standing among the world’s most discerning guests, collectors, and connoisseurs, and embodies our unwavering dedication to excellence,” said Ian Williams, general manager of San Ysidro Ranch.

According to the restaurant’s wine director Tristan Pitre, the bottles were sourced “directly from France” to avoid the risk of counterfeits. He added that “the significance of provenance” was “a critical consideration for us, especially concerning older and rare wines like these.”

According to db’s Bordeaux correspondent Colin Hay, however, cellaring bottles of Château d’Yquem for an indefinite period of time may be at odds with the fine wine producer’s wider goals.

“We tend to think of Yquem – or, at least, have tended to think of Yquem – as a wine whose near infinite capacity to age means that it is practically a crime to drink it young,” Hay said following a visit to the producer last year. “That impression, LVMH Vins d’exception are now keen to change… if just a little.”

Hay revealed that the Château is now keen to re-present Yquem “as a wine so balanced and harmonious in its complexity that it can be enjoyed and appreciated essentially from the moment of its release.”

That was certainly true, said Hay “of the 2019; it is even more true of the 2020.”

Lighthouse venues

Despite this, explained Hay, the Château plans to work with a number of “lighthouse” hospitality venues, known for their wine offering, to demystify Yquem and light the way for new consumers to discover its wines.

Part of Yquem’s strategy is to “identify and work closely with a series of high-profile partners – each wine-oriented restaurants or hotels around the world (many but by no means all of them Michelin starred) – in the promotion and presentation of the wine,” Hay wrote for db.

“These so-called ‘lighthouses’ offer either the new release or back vintages of Yquem to their customers matched either with a specific dish (only rarely a dessert) or an experience of a singular kind.”

The Stonehouse Restaurant appears to be one such lighthouse. Château d’Yquem is by no means the first exceptional offering from a single producer that restaurant has built up. Hidden in its cellar is also a 70-vintage-strong collection of Pomerol’s Château Pétrus.

db has previously reported that Gregg Popovich, the coach of NBA team San Antonio Spurs is obsessed with Château d’Yquem, with the French producer having gifted him a bottle of the 1949 vintage (the same year Popovich was born) for his birthday following years of custom.

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