I happens all the time… the Bern’s Steakhouse sommeliers “find” a full case of 1983 this or a 1977 case of that. Just laying around in one of their many plain, white warehouse cellars which line South Howard Avenue in Tampa. Bern Laxer used to buy wine by the palate-load and purchased wine all around the world for decades, to store and serve at his namesake restaurant. But he never really kept track of the bottles. So sommeliers throughout Bern’s history have maintained a hunt and peck method of “inventory management” that has been happening at least since the early 1990’s, when I worked there. It bugs the hell out of me that they don’t inventory the whole mess. I think that’s my OCD side. But then I wouldn’t be able to write about cool stuff like this…
Their most recent wine find is a doozy… a $30,000 bottle of Chateau Latour from 1947, one of the most venerated, famed and worshiped vintages of all time in France (or anywhere, for that matter), from the most venerated, famed and worshiped wineries in France. It’s like finding the Hope Diamond in your grandmother’s jewelry chest.
One summer day during a monthly wine hunting mission in the Rare Wine Room (actually in the restaurant, not at one of the satellite cellars), Bern’s Sommelier Eric Renaud spotted a bottle laying on its side on a high shelf, not facing forward like the other ones. He scrambled up and realizing it was a double magnum (3 liters) of the 1947 Latour, pretty much freaked out. Renaud said: “It looked like someone had hid it there a long time ago… the second I saw it, I almost had a heart attack.” (And then he was made famous… Eric was even interviewed by NPR)
Brad Dixon, Sommelier at Bern’s, said he received $20,000 inquiries via text message from interested buyers the day they announced the find in late December. The restaurant sat on the information since summer because their updated wine list comes out this month (nothing wrong with a little publicity, right?). The St. Pete Times reported that the “$30,000 price far exceeds anything ever sold at Bern’s. The closest was several years ago when a local businessman — whom the restaurant would not identify at his request — bought an 1841 Chateau Lafite Rothschild for $10,000.”
With the pristine condition that it’s been kept in and its larger size, the Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine is likely amazing so whoever buys it is in for some good drinking. But if it isn’t, Bern’s said they will take it off the bill. What have you got to lose?