Charlie Trotter: A pioneer in wine as well as food

on 07/11/13 at 7:51 am

Booze News

charlie-trotter-wine-auctionWhen Christie’s auctioned off “The Magnificent Cellar of Charlie Trotter’s” last December, the 357 lots, much of it fabled Burgundies and Rhones, fetched close to a million dollars, $918,027 to be exact.

Trotter, who was found dead Tuesday morning in Chicago at age 54, loved wine. And the successive sommeliers, some of the best in the world, who worked with him over the 25 years he owned Charlie Trotter’s had amassed a phenomenal cellar.

The Christie’s auction literature quotes the chef as commenting: “Seeing some of the rare gems from my cellar at auction today felt a bit like parting with old friends at times, but it was gratifying to see so much collector interest and demand from around the world. I’ve taken great pride in selecting and caring for these wines over the years, and I am confident their next owners will enjoy them just as much as I have.”

Chris Meeske, now proprietor of Mission Wines in South Pasadena, was a sommelier at Charlie Trotter’s in the early 1990s. “The guy loved wine and was a big collector,” says Meeske. “And he had an incredible customer base of wine collectors who would spend like there was no tomorrow.”

Meeske remembers when he first arrived at Trotter’s to work with master sommelier Larry Stone and the two of them went to a wine auction. Stone started bidding and he was getting all these great wines at great prices. At a certain point, though, Stone was spending so much money, he was getting nervous. So he called Trotter, who said: “Larry, are you getting some great wines?” Yes. “If you’re getting some great deals, don’t bother me about petty details. Do what you have to do.”

Joseph Spellman is another master sommelier (and only the second American to have won Best International Sommelier in French Wines) who worked for Trotter. He was at the restaurant from 1993 to 1998 and is now sommelier for Justin Vineyards on the Central Coast.

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