New York's 21 Club prunes wines, not glamour, in sale

Wed Aug 12, 2009 1:43pm EDT
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK Aug 12 (Reuters Life!) - Whoopi Goldberg, George Clooney as well as the Britain's Princess Anne recently threw parties in its wine cellar. Elizabeth Taylor, Ivan Boesky, and Chelsea Clinton have bottles there.

But now, as the wooden crates of fine reds pile up chest high, New York's famed 21 Club needs to tidy its cellar which is hidden behind a 5,000 pound brick door.

On September 12, Christie's will be auctioning off some 630 bottles from the restaurant that began as a speakeasy selling swill to swells during the Prohibition era of 1920 to 1933.

The bottles on offer are mostly Burgundies, said Christie's North American head of wines Charles Curtis.

"Mostly 1999s and some 2002s," he said, speaking of two vintages almost as legendary as the 21 Club itself.

"It was very difficult to decide which bottles to part with. I'm very proprietary about my wines," said Philip Pratt, 21's wine director. "I guess the best comparison I can make is: Have you ever had a closet full of clothes? You love them, but you still have to make room for new outfits."

21's wine closet is big enough to hold 25,000 bottles, not counting the private stock of some 2,000 they keep on hand for likes of the late President Richard Nixon and entertainer Sammy Davis Jr.

"We no longer offer the program, but the wines are here and part of their estates. And sometimes their heirs call just to check up on a bottle," said Pratt.   Continued...

<p>A waiter serves a glass of red wine from Spain during a tasting session at Vinexpo Asia-Pacific, the International Wine and Spirits Exhibition for the Asia-Pacific region, in Hong Kong May 28, 2008. REUTERS/Victor Fraile</p>