By Kelly Carter
With San Francisco abuzz over America’s Cup, I popped by ORACLE TEAM USA’s Innovation Lounge for a luxury tasting of Penfolds fine wine on Friday, a perfect day for sailing. The America’s Cup trophy was on display, along with Penfolds Limited Edition Ampoule, which retails for $168,000 and is the most expensive wine directly sold from a winery in the world.
The vessel contains 2004 Kalimna Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon, a rare, single vineyard wine, only made in exceptional vintages and produced from the oldest continuously producing Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the world.
“This is the last Ampoule that we have left for the globe,” DLynn Proctor, Penfolds Winemaking Ambassador, Americas, told me. “We fashioned 12. One will always stay at the winery with our Chief Winemaker Peter Gago. We’ve sold the other 10. This one is not for sale because in just a few short months it one goes on consignment with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, for which we will open the sale. We won’t say just yet (what the starting price is).”
Proctor will join Gago in Toronto at the beginning of October when the Ampoule, originally launched in Moscow in 2012, goes on consignment. Of the 10 Ampoules sold, none has been opened yet. When that time comes, Gago will fly in to do the honors. It’s not just the grapes that make this special. The glass sculpture that entirely encases the wine was designed and hand-blown by Nick Mount, a world-renowned glass artist who resides in Adelaide, South Australia. Prominent Australian designer-maker Hendrik Forster prepared all the precious metal detailing. South Australian furniture craftsman Andrew Bartlett has designed and made the bespoke Jarrah cabinet. And the scientific–grade Ampoule, designed to store the wine in an ideal environment, was created by veteran scientific glassblower Ray Leake.
As guests enjoyed the Innovation Lounge, which includes a rooftop deck that offers prime viewing, Proctor led me through a tasting, highlighted by Penfolds 2008 Grange Shiraz.. “It is the 11th wine in the world, and the first non-French wine to score dual 100 point scores from Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator,” he said.
The Grange was quite deserving, though I wonder how it compares to Block 42.