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Drinkable Wednesday: Fashionable wines

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by guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes

DP-Shot-2.jpg

On the last day of New York Fashion Week, Naeem Khan and his wife Ranjana Khan (he designs clothing; she, jewelry) collaborated on a show that was art in motion.

In elegant pop-up lounges, attention went to art of a different kind: wine provided by a Fashion Week sponsor, Sherry-Lehmann Wines and Spirits.

The story begins last century. Phillipe de Rothschild, owner of Château de Mouton Rothschild, was in the habit of asking one renowned artist a year to design a label. (Baron Rothschild's daughter, Philippine, continues the tradition.)

"In 1975, he chose Warhol to design the label for the '75 Mouton," he says. Adams leans forward, his voice sparkling like wine. "When the wine came into Sherry-Lehmann, in the summer of '79, he came into the store ... We had the big bottles - the double mags, the imperials - on display, and he said, 'Hey! Can I sign? Can I sign these?'"

According to CEO Chris Adams, 2010 isn't Sherry-Lehmann's first year near the catwalk. The relationship began a few years ago. "It is a scale at which we don't operate," Adams observes, but "[Fashion Week] is a New York institution, something that's been around for a while ... We think of ourselves as a New York institution. It is a pretty good match."

Sherry-Lehmann's been selling wine for 76 years. New York Fashion Week has strutted its stuff, under one name or another (it started as Press Week) since 1943. Paris was under Nazi occupation. Holding Fashion Week in New York diverted attention from Paris and gave people a welcome, if brief, distraction from the grimness of the war.

Now, there are fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris - but make no mistake; the French have a foothold in Manhattan's off-stage bars. Adams is especially buzzed about one of this year's bottles. Sherry-Lehmann provided "a slew of wines" (the full list is below), "but this week has been about the Warhol Dom Perignon."

There's a direct connection. "Andy was a client, but he was also part of our marketing strategy." That's not something every liquor store can claim.

The story begins last century. Phillipe de Rothschild, owner of Château de Mouton Rothschild, was in the habit of asking one renowned artist a year to design a label. (Baron Rothschild's daughter, Philippine, continues the tradition.)

"In 1975, he chose Warhol to design the label for the '75 Mouton," he says. Adams leans forward, his voice sparkling like wine. "When the wine came into Sherry-Lehmann, in the summer of '79, he came into the store ... We had the big bottles - the double mags, the imperials - on display, and he said, 'Hey! Can I sign? Can I sign these?'"

warhol2.jpg

Bottle-signing has become common, Adams acknowledges, but, "I think that Sherry-Lehmann and Andy Warhol may have initiated the first bottle-signing ever." Warhol autographed a few bottles. They sold out. Sherry-Lehmann asked him to sign more. He sat on the deck, drank '67 Mouton, and signed and numbered bottle after bottle.

They gave him a $25 store credit for every bottle he signed, and sold the autographed bottles for $210 for a magnum and $420 for a double magnum. They sold every last bottle - and now they're trying to buy one back. Ruefully, Adams admits to bidding $5,000 on a double magnum of what was, however briefly, store property.

Frustrating? Maybe. Worthwhile? Undeniably. "For a moment, just participating in - what is New York?" -- Adams gives a list: art, avante garde art, cutting edge, graphic art -- "and Andy's commitment to the fun of it."

When Moët-Hennessy Louis Vuitton said they were making Warhol-inspired bottles, everything came together: the arts of wine, labels, fashion, history and one of the hardest to cultivate - the art of making connections.

A Fashion Week preview, the Warhol-homage 2002 Dom Perignon will be released in October. Be glad you don't have long to wait. "I love '98 Dom," Adams says. "I love 2000 Dom. But they're not 2002." In the great vintages, the grapes have a long time to hang, from flower to harvest. 2002 had that.

Adams sips and describes: "Right on the attack, we have a rich, luscious, fulfilling mouth. We have fruit - which is what it's all about - and then we have a laser-like acidity. What you really want is to take another sip. You want richness, vibrancy, freshness and length." This wine will age. "2002: great vintage, but young. Enjoy it now, but don't be afraid to cellar it, for 10 or 20 years," he says.

Speaking of Naeem Khan's work, Adams resorts to the same adjectives he uses for wine. "This show tonight," Adams says, "full-bodied, laser-focused and long-lasting." Like fine wine, Khan's fashions will stay beautiful. Buy now, but don't be afraid to wear for years.
Fashion Week's been part of the American scene since WWII. Andy Warhol was born in 1928. Moët et Chandon was established in 1743. It's about time.

Fashionable wines and spirits spotted at NY Fashion Week, September 2010:

Dom Perignon, "Andy Warhol Collection" Pre Arrival, 2002
Zardetto Conegliano, Prosecco Brut NV
Zardetto Conegliano, Zeta "Z" Prosecco Brut
Boyer, Brut Blanc de Blancs, NV
Moet & Chandon, Imperial NV
Glenmorangie, 10 Yr. Single Malt
Hennessy Black Cognac


Dom Perignon photo courtesy Simeon Gilmer Photography
Andy Warhol photos by Peter Meltzer

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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