The Bryant Estate’s 13-acre vineyard, overlooking Lake Hennessey

Bettina Bryant, owner of California’s iconic Bryant Estate, is a wine-world legend. She is also a philanthropist, a significant art collector and cultural polymath, and an advocate of nature and biodiversity. Darius Sanai meets Bryant over a thoughtful dinner in Mayfair, and she, in turn, presents a first-person meditation on her life and work

Encountering Bettina Bryant for the first time, in a Mayfair restaurant, I would not have imagined that she was in the wine industry. Elegant, compact of movement, considered and thoughtful, Bryant has an academic poise. She is an art historian (she studied at Columbia University), a collector and a former dancer. If anything, I would have imagined she was an academic: there is a precision to the way she gives answers, the sign of a mind that does not indulge in irrelevant debate.

Matt Morris: A Cabernet Sauvignon grape seen as a heavenly body – Bryant grapes are harvested according to the lunar cycle.

But Bryant also owns one of the world’s wine legends. Lovers of California’s renowned Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wines, which are as acclaimed and sought after as the most celebrated of Bordeaux, know that her Bryant Estate is one of the region’s own “first-growths”, the equivalent of a Château Latour or Château Lafite. (Unlike France, California doesn’t have an official first-growth categorisation system, but everyone knows that Bryant would be one of them if it did.)

In that, though, there is heartbreak. It was her visionary husband Don Bryant who first established the reputation of Bryant Estate alongside the likes of Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate, before succumbing to Alzheimer’s, with which he remains gravely ill.

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Bettina Bryant, the art historian, collector and former ballet dancer (she was mentored by Mikhail Baryshnikov at the American Ballet Theatre), unexpectedly took over the reins. Speaking with her, the conversation swoops between art, literature and, of course, wine. Although she is a born-and-bred American, Bryant’s parents had immigrated from Maienfeld, Switzerland – perhaps, coincidentally, the heart of that country’s fine wines.

The mineral-rich terroir

They were not in the wine industry: her father, Fridolin Sulser, was an acclaimed psychopharmacologist, an academic and scientific pioneer. You sense this in Bryant, in that precision and compactness of thought, which is common enough for scientists, but not so much for art collectors (this author does not know enough ballet dancers to comment on that side).

Since 2014, Bettina has been Proprietor and President of the winery, dedicating herself to maintaining the legacy established by her husband

Bryant has commissioned some fascinating and distinctive artists, including Ed Ruscha, to work with her winery: a particular favourite of mine is Sara Flores, a native artist from the Peruvian Amazon, whose art is at once deeply organic and somehow tightly graphic, rather like the mathematical forms of nature itself.

This commune with nature is important for Bryant. Her wines are biodynamic, and she has a scientist’s fascination for how natural cycles, and nature itself, interact with not just her vines, but with humans and our creativity. The wines themselves are creations of the utmost elegance and eloquence. Bryant Estate, the original legend, is deep, philosophical, somewhat Kantian in its uncompromising synthesis of nature.

A series of the renowned Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Bettina, a newer wine, has a lightness of being (is it autosuggestion to say it dances on the palate?), but also a persistence and gravitas. Bryant has also released a Chardonnay, a white wine of oceanic depth and character. All are made by Kathryn “KK” Carothers, her winemaker, a gentle soul with quiet wisdom and playful eyes who accompanies Bettina on many of her journeys around the world, like a family member. Enough from us.

Matt Morris. Weiferd Watts: The Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard

Bryant speaks about her life and her wines in her own words. We suggest a sip or two of Bettina, the wine, from an Ed Ruscha-designed magnum, as you drink them in.

A former dancer, Bettina’s creative story is interwoven with the wines, including the Bettina wine and this Bryant Estate logo

My journey to the helm of Bryant Estate was unexpectedly swift and accompanied by heartbreak. Six years after my arrival in Napa, my husband, Don, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was unable to continue day-to-day oversight.

I am immensely grateful for the time we had to work together, for the opportunity to shadow him and ask questions. I also worked early on with oenologist Michel Rolland and helped create the Bettina wine. Establishing myself in the process sooner, the time Don and I shared at the vineyard and our travels to other wine estates was deeply informative and invaluable.

Untitled (Pei Kené 1, 2022), 2022, by Sara Flores

Don was extremely generous with me, opening iconic bottles from his cellar, dispensing advice on running the business, managing and mentoring people and, of course, always maintaining an uncompromising attitude when it comes to quality. For more than a decade, I have been putting his lessons to use as I work to evolve the winery.

Among the things I have implemented are:

Biodynamic farming: I am perhaps most excited to have transitioned the vineyard from organic to biodynamic farming. We use no pre-emergent herbicides and rely wholly on elemental forces, such as fire, to coordinate vegetative growth. We replaced plastic ties with biodegradable twine and, in following the lunar cycles, have discovered that vines pruned during the descending moon recover more successfully than on the ascending moon.

Swell (PICA PICA), Five Rings of Magpie Feathers, 2020, by Kate MccGwire

Already, improvements to vine physiology and vine stress resilience are demonstrable, particularly in recent drought years. We have never witnessed more soil vitality, and I firmly believe that this translates into more expressive and pure wine aromatics. Being in deep connection to the land and its gifts teaches us that we must be in right reciprocity in all aspects of life. For me, this holistic view encourages harmony, balance and beauty in the wines. Much of society has become too extractive. We must engage in good practices and be mindful in giving back to nature. 

Education: I had wonderful mentors in my life and encourage my team to seek out opportunities for continued learning. I created two educational support programmes to encourage employees to pursue deeper learning, both in their chosen fields and in external areas of interest.

Philanthropy: I am passionate about philanthropy and have embraced four areas of support at the winery. First, the arts, emphasising arts education, creative learning and emotional healing through art. Second, the environment, spanning clean energy, climate action, conservation and environmental justice. Third, social impact, covering access to food, safe spaces, tribal support, job training and social justice.

California Grape Skins, 2009, by Ed Ruscha

And fourth, mental health, encompassing research, advocacy and support.

Read more: Visiting Ferrari Trento: The sparkling wine of Formula 1

Immersive moments: I recently engaged the French architect Severine Tatangelo of Studio PCH to collaborate with me on a Tasting Room / Dining Pavilion at the vineyard. She has designed several hospitality projects, including Nobu properties in Malibu, Los Cabos, Santorini and Warsaw.

My desire is to holistically integrate wine, nature and art. I want to honour the vineyard, the wine and the talent behind the wine, and inspire people to be present, to connect with nature, light, music, or maybe even silence. The design approach will be sympathetic to and harmonious with the contours of the existing building and landscape, so much so that it practically disappears, and will utilise materials such as stone, wood, clay and natural fibres.

Supporting small producers: The Napa of today has many other pressing factors at play, compared to when Don founded Bryant Estate in the mid 1980s. Not only has the number of wineries increased exponentially, but we are facing unprecedented environmental factors and supply pressures.

One of my biggest observations over the nearly two decades that I’ve been involved is that many of the new players sweeping in to acquire smaller family-founded wineries seem to have little respect for the essence of what made these small producers special. Post acquisition, I find many of the wines unrecognisable. This was a big impetus to create Bryant Imports, to cast light on – and hopefully protect the stories of – these special producers.

Das Angebot (The Offering), 2016, by Neo Rauch

The art of wine: My background as a dancer and art historian informed my art collecting, and I approach winemaking with a similar lens. To cite music producer Rick Rubin, author of The Creative Act: A Way of Being, “Being an artist isn’t about your specific output, it’s about yourrelationship to the world”. For me, art and wine go hand in hand. The emanative, visceral power of visual art, music and architecture is no different for me than sharing a glass of wine with someone who understands that they are experiencing something ephemeral.

During the pandemic, I invited my friend Tom Campbell, Director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, to join me and my winemaker in a lively Zoom discussion around art and wine. Tom and Renée Dreyfus, his Curator of Ancient Art and Interpretation, talked about objects and depictions of wine in the museum collections, and my winemaker, KK, examined the artistic process of winemaking.

In 2020, I released my first artistic wine collaboration with UK-based artist Rachel Dein. Using our vineyard cover-crop botanicals, she created a unique impression that we transferred to the interior of the wine box. Many of my collectors claim that this presentation box holds pride of place in their cellars. Art that demonstrates virtuosic ability, wrought by an artist’s own hand, has always compelled me.

I studied a lot of theory at university and, while that can be a very intoxicating and cerebral exercise, I find that I really appreciate the gesture of the human hand in a work of art. No wonder I appreciate the craft of winemaking! My husband and I collected a lot of minimalist and abstract art (Ellsworth Kelly, Brice Marden, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra), and in 2015 I installed a particularly beautiful grouping in the Great Room of our St Helena home. In 2016, I acquired a wonderful Neo Rauch painting titled Das Angebot (The Offering), and I repositioned a Kelly to accommodate this work. The energy in the room instantly electrified.

The Rauch painting features a central, brightly hued female figure surrounded by male figure en grisaille. The female figure offers fire in her cupped hands, alongside a muscular hand digging its hand into the earth. With this installation, I realised an affinity for figurative work that clearly harkened from my time in dance.

I now realise that this painting was perhaps prophetic, as I lost my home in the 2020 fires that swept through the valley. Thankfully, my connection to the earth remains solid. During the Covid pandemic, I was inspired by how the environment benefitted.

Artist Rachel Dein’s impression of botanicals from the estate, which featured within a wine box

The waterways cleared, air quality improved, turtles were returning to their natural breeding patterns, and so on. I also discovered the astonishing foraged feather pieces of Kate MccGwire and commissioned a large concentric work from her.

My interest in the utilisation of natural materials in art also led me to the Peruvian painter Sara Flores, a 74-year-old Shipibo-Conibo artist, who sings to the trees before she extracts the bark to make her pigments. I find that so touching and am excited to support a documentary film on her life and work.

And Ed Ruscha [who designed the 10th-anniversary artwork for the Bettina bottle] was a dream to work with and very receptive to my ideas – a genuinely generous artist (and human being). It was a complete honour to work with him.

The vineyard is located in a moderate microclimate that fosters natural sugar development and a gradual ripening of the grapes

Tapping more deeply into my creativity and understanding the opportunity to learn and grow is one of the greatest gifts of life. One of my particular joys is supporting others on their learning and creative paths, whether encouraging my winemaker to source and craft our new Chardonnay, commissioning works by artists or evolving my new business venture supporting other small wine producers whose values resonate with my own.

On a more personal level, I am about to begin meditation and mentorship work with a Buddhist teacher. With art and wine and luxury, it is imperative that we recognise the gifts we have been given and treat them responsibly.

Art and beauty have such potential to be catalysts for positive change. I have always loved Gerhard Richter’s quote: “Art is the highest form of hope”. In these turbulent times, I feel more compelled than ever to create and deliver a wine and experience that resonates and inspires.

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a vineyard with a house at the back
green vineyards and an orange house at the end surrounded by trees

Dana Estates is one of Napa’s most prized wineries

Dana is a cult collectible among California wines, made in tiny quantities at sky-high prices. Its owners are on a self-declared quest for perfection. Darius Sanai sat down with them for a tasting of their exceptional wines

The universe of fine wine, more than that of any other luxury good, is filled with contradictions. You say you don’t like Merlot, but you pay £2000 for a bottle of Château Petrus, which is made, mainly, from Merlot. You would never dream of drinking a wine made from different vintages all in one bottle, yet you collect Krug Grande Cuvée champagne, which has made its name on doing just that. You don’t like California wines because they are too strong, and prefer to stick to Bordeaux, yet many Bordeaux wines, in this time of climate change, are 14% or 15% alcohol, just the same as their California cousins.

Nowhere is this paradox more vivid than in Napa Valley itself, the heart of California’s great wines. “Napa Valley Cabernet” is considered even by many wine connoisseurs to be one particular style, which they may profess strong views about either way – particularly if they are French, or a little snobbish and British. And yet not only does this area make a spectrum of different styles – arguably, much broader than that made in the grape’s famous homeland, Bordeaux’s left bank – but, geographically, geologically, horticulturally, and meteorologically, it is one of the most diverse wine producing regions in the world.

A lounge with yellow lighting

The winery was re-designed by renowned architect Howard Backen, keeping the original stone walls as its centrepiece

This point was brought home during our tasting of Dana wines with the estates’ owners. Dana itself is situated on the west side of Napa Valley, in the shadow of the Mayacamas mountains (in reality, densely, wooded, and biodiversity rich, big hills, separating Napa from valleys to the west that run towards the Pacific Ocean).

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Dana’s wines are made from grapes grown on both on the sides of the valley, including two vineyards on the slopes of Howell Mountain to the east, part of the range which separates this fertile area from the arid central valley of California. (This geographical detail is essential, as wine is a product of its place).

In the Dana wines we tasted, we were tasting different identities, and personalities, with far more differentiation than the marginal differences in climate and soil in revered heartlands of France.

casks in a room with a chandelier

Dana Estates produces three single vineyard wines: Helms, Hershey and Lotus Vineyard

And here is another paradox. Because while France’s great wines, from Chateau Margaux to Château Petrus to Domaine de la Romanée Conti, are brands that almost any connoisseur worth their salt knows of, very few people indeed have heard of Dana. And this, you would think, would lead to it being undervalued, a kind of hidden gem of beautiful wine to discover and buy up.

And you would be wrong, for all the wines we tasted here are as expensive, and in the case of some vintages more expensive, than the great names of France mentioned above. Tiny production, and a cult following, and also, as we noted in our conversation, an owner and winemaker absolutely obsessed with making the best possible, no matter what the cost. Hi Sang Lee is a Korean entrepreneur who bought the winery because he just wanted to make the best of the best.

Like a few other top and California estates, a conversation and tasting with Dana is like a window into the creation of a future wine, superbrand. And as for those who prefer to dismiss “cult” California wines, as a fad, superbrands, are often only taken up, in the early stages, by the most discerning.

a vineyard with a house at the back

Dana Estates sits at the base of the Mayacamas Mountains in Napa Valley

The wines: Tasting notes by Darius Sanai

Dana Estates Helms 2019
This is pure, brilliant, Napa Cabernet – and for connoisseurs of the region, more specifically, has the wonderful hallmarks of a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Rutherford Bench, an area just below the mountains on the west of the valley. There is density, powerful fruit, balanced tannins and a balance – although we would put either put this wine in a cellar for 10 years, or drink it with a Kobe steak personally chosen and cooked by Wolfgang Puck in our home overlooking the Pacific.

A blue carafe next to a bottle and glass of wine

The Helms Vineyard Cabernet displays the classic profile of the Rutherford Bench: dark fruit, richly layered with a hints of spice and earth

Dana Estates Hershey 2019
Hershey Vineyard is not in Napa Valley per se; it is up in the hillsides around Howell Mountain, to the east of the valley. Surrounded by forests, you can feel the freshness and lift in this wine. It’s more delicate, more precise, more defined, while still being a powerful wine. We would drink it with guineafowl in a wine jus cooked in our home in the high Alps by Yannick Alléno.

Dana Estates Lotus 2019
Rich, powerful, deep wine with many layers: creamy black fruit, savoury spice and anise, and velvety texture. We would drink this with Hélène Darroze herself, in a Mayfair townhouse, with an Auvergne-style beef casserole.

Large black wine bottles

Dana is a Sanskrit term meaning “the Spirit of Generosity”

Dana Estates Lotus 2011
It was interesting to see how this wine aged; at twelve years, the muscularity of the previous wine has turned into something altogether more poetic. Still rich with power, but woven through with a silken grace, and the spice has a greater subtlety. With this one we would ask Yan Tak from Lung King Heen in Hong Kong to cook us a hotpot, and eat it in our Midlevels apartment looking out over Hong Kong harbour.

Read more: A tasting of Schrader’s legendary Napa wines

Dana Estates Helms 2005
This 18 year old Dana wine has aged more like a Burgundy than a Bordeaux, opening out into a fresh, fragrant, balanced wine with much subtlety and no trace of tannins. We would drink this by itself, in winter, in our house overlooking the turbulent sea off the coast of wintertime Mallorca.

Find out more: danaestates.com

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A blue car by a lake with an orange sunset
A blue car by a lake with an orange sunset

Mercedes E53 AMG, a highly enjoyable tourer

In the first part of our Great Drives series from the Spring/Summer 2023 issue, Darius Sanai travels from Santa Monica to Napa Valley in a Mercedes E53 AMG Cabriolet, ending his trip in Napa Valley with a glass of Harlan Estate The Mascot, 2016

There is a freeway that leads from downtown LA to the ocean at Santa Monica, but we chose to take Santa Monica Boulevard, which arrows straight to the ocean. On every corner, there seemed to be a liquor store or 7-Eleven to remind us of hold-up scenes in movies. Of course, we put the roof down – you have to in LA, particularly if you are a foreigner driving a valuable car – way to go in style. In fact, our understated mid-blue AMG, with its black interior, attracted only positive attention – a couple of thumbs ups, and encouragement to rev the engine from kids on a street corner. Even in the land of the Tesla, some things never change.

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At the Pacific Ocean, we turned right. Keeping the ocean to our left, we cruised through Santa Monica, which, from the road seems just another collection of low-rise buildings and garish signs. The arc of the ocean and bay occasionally appeared on the left, culminating in mountains dropping into the sea in the distance. In time, the traffic lights became less frequent, the buildings less condensed, rocks and cacti popped up by the side of the road and the ocean lapped the left- hand carriageway. But this is not a place to put your foot down, as ubiquitous signs warn of police speed checks. Our neighbouring drivers, some in quite exotic and speedy-looking cars, travelled dutifully at the posted speed limit, too.

We didn’t mind, we were in it for the long haul. Soon, the mountains dropped directly into the sea, the road became tighter and we could feel the spray sweeping over our open roof between patches of cloud above. Signs for Santa Barbara, our first destination, started to appear. We took a spontaneous turn off at Montecito, to see if we could catch a glimpse of the world’s most famous non-reclusive, non-royal, reclusive royals.

A wooden table on a terrace overlooking vineyards

Breakfast on LUX’s private deck at Meadowood, Napa Valley

We didn’t see them, but we did find a picture-perfect clapboard high street, complete with immaculate children clutching Instagrammable ice creams, watched over benignly by immaculate parents. We stopped for a sundowner at the Rosewood Miramar Beach hotel in Montecito, whose lawns stretch out across a miniature railway line and drop down to a beach. Sailing yachts gently rocked up and down on the ocean beyond, the setting sun was weak in the haze, the air was cool and all it needed was Cary Grant to stroll over and sit next to us to complete the scene.

Santa Barbara was a fun trickle along the back roads from Montecito, which is built into a steep hillside. A couple of spontaneous turnings took us through canyons, hugging the inner edge of mountainsides, facing other mountainsides, which faced other mountainsides – a plunge into wilderness just minutes from manicured civilisation of the wealthiest kind.

The E53 AMG seemed made for this kind of journey. There are AMG models that are more powerful, more focused, more hardcore, but this isa four-seater luxury convertible that has been subtly enhanced by the manufacturer to engage on the sporting side, with plenty of thrust from its V6 hybrid engine. The relatively benign cruiser that had taken us up the coastal highway earlier that day turned into a racket with a foot flat on the floor, surging forward with a roaring buzz from the engine at front. Big tyres and four-wheel drive gave great stability around corners on the twisting roads. This is quite a big, heavy car, so we are not talking Ferrari handling, but it has plenty of security, plus the fun of roof-down motoring.

A blue lit up car parked outside a lit up grand hotel

The Mercedes posing in front of the RosewoodMiramar Beach hotel in Montecito, California

It was pretty exciting. We imagined it would have been even more so for passengers in the back seat, where, unlike many sporting convertibles, there is plenty of room to stretch out. We arrived in Santa Barbara feeling we’d had something of an adventure workout, as you should on a good drive in a sports car.

This trip was about us finding our own personal nirvana: a long drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, or Highway One. As one of the world’s most legendary roads, the map showed it to follow the exact contours of the California coast between our location and San Francisco hundreds of miles north.  Setting off again the next morning, we noted that a Sunday was probably not the ideal day to start the main part of such a drive because we were not alone. Camper vans, family vehicles, pick-up trucks and the odd vintage convertible were inching along the road in weather that more resembled northern Europe in winter than California in Spring.

Fortunately, both turned out to be ephemeral. What has seemed a dull day threatening rain cracked as the clouds fractured to show deep blue fissures above, and soon the overcast sky was revealed to be no more than seven blobs of low cloud clinging to the mountainside in the early morning, and soon dissipated. The air was so clear I was convinced we could see across the ocean to Japan. The traffic dissipated a little, too, enough for us to speed up and enjoy the ride.

A blue Mercedes with its headlights on with a sunset and palm trees behind it

The Mercedes E53 AMG on a windswept Venice Beach, California;

The scenery before us altered between rocky curves, enormous bays, tiny inlets and forests pouring down mountainsides in the sea. We stopped just off the road at a beachside food shack-expecting preprepared food, instant coffee and canned drinks at best  and asked for a white coffee. “Full fat, semi-skimmed, oat or soy?” was the response, and there was a choice between Ecuadorian, Guatemalan and Indonesian roasts. Next to a plate of homemade brownies were three bowls of multicoloured Middle Eastern-style salads, rich with beans, Mediterranean vegetables and za’atar. no ordinary roadside shack.

As we headed north along the coast, every few miles there was a sign to the right, pointing along a road heading inland up some deep valley, towards mountains that looked as uninhabited as the moon. Occasionally, there were signs for wineries to visit along the roads, over the mountains and quite far away. Tempting though the idea was, we resisted, partly because we were driving, partly because a signpost in the US west to a given location does not mean you are anywhere near that particular location, and partly because our end destination was the ne plus ultra of California wines, Napa Valley.

There was a lot of wiggling coastline between here and there, though, and we stayed overnight at a hotel set back in the hills with a distant view of the sea, offering some of the local wines (from San Luis Obispo) in its list, along with a vegan club sandwich. One glass of refreshing Chardonnay was enough that evening.

A swimming pool surrounded by trees and sunbeds

Meadowood Resort’s adults-only Cabana Pool, Napa Valley, Calfornia

The sign of a truly great touring car is one you actively look forward to getting into and driving each morning. Some cars are comfortable but dull, where you feel, as a driver, that you would just as happily be a passenger. Other cars are exciting but tiring, making you weary of the idea of another day at the wheel. The AMG was neither: each morning it welcomed us with its promise of comfort, power and responsiveness. A more powerful and muscular car would have become frustrating in the traffic, and it had enough feedback and driver involvement to keep us looking forward to the next set of curves.

Setting out again along the (now emptier) northbound route on the Monday morning, I reflected further on the car’s virtues. The interior is both functional and lavish. We liked the sweep of the dashboard, the classic-style round vents in the middle, the big wide digital instrument display. The only misgiving I had developed was over the sound of the engine. Cars these days are downsizing their engines, accompanying them with electric motors in the move towards electrification. The AMG’s engine, so created out of a combination of petrol and electric motors, was certainly powerful and responsive enough, but, though the engineers had clearly tried, it did not have the mellow, throaty voice you would expect of a big droptop car with sporting ambitions. That is not unique to AMG, though, and it is a characteristic that engine lovers will need to get used to until, in a decade or two, they are phased out completely,

After what seemed a million mountainsides curving into the sea, it was a relief to stop for coffee at the cute little seaside town of Carmel, and wander through its art stores and boutiques, and again a little later in the bigger town of Monterey, where we visited the oceanfront Monterey Bay Aquarium, having a play with manta rays in the process. This is no normal small-town aquarium: its Executive Director is Julie Packard of the Packard tech family, and, in its mission to inspire ocean conservation, it leads research into marine welfare, advocates to end plastic pollution and campaigns for, and monitors, sustainable seafood production.

A white wooden bedroom with a white bed and dark brown wooden doors and floors

Meadowood’s refined yet rustic Cottage Room with private porch, Napa Valley, California

A couple of hours later, we were navigating San Francisco’s cityscape, before hitting the roof-down button again as we approached the Golden Gate Bridge. Doing so in a droptop Mercedes with a little 1960s music playing was perfect. By that stage, we were seriously appreciating the car’s seats, which felt as if they had been created by many thousands of German engineering hours. We felt neither stiff nor uncomfortable, despite the long days on this great drive.

Napa Valley starts rather abruptly: one moment you are in an urban road system in the unprepossessing town of Napa, having left San Francisco Bay just behind you; the next, you are driving up a steep country road, hillsides either side, vineyards all around, with signs pointing to estates familiar to anybody with a passion for a fine wine. We carried on along the main highway, and, although this is no place for speed-testing, we were grateful for the rapid- fire acceleration of the car when overtaking a couple of pieces of rolling vineyard equipment in the face of oncoming traffic. Crossing the valley and the riverbed, we came to the gates of what looks like a grand residence on the hillside, surrounded by forest rather than vines.

Meadowood Resort was acquired and expanded by Napa Valley’s first family, the Harlans of Harlan Estate, as the area’s first luxury resort in 1979. Our accommodation was a wooden lodge with a large veranda up on the hillside, a big bedroom decked out in luxury country style and a little sitting room with a bottle of The Mascot, the latest wine creation from the Harlan family, as a welcome gift on the coffee table. We sat on our private veranda with a view across through the trees and out to the vineyards of Napa and enjoyed the balanced power of the wine – a vivid, rich, layered Cabernet Sauvignon.

Read more: A Tasting Of Organic Boutique California Wines From Diamond Creek

It was a short walk to the tennis courts and an almost Olympic-sized outdoor pool, where we swam despite the chilly weather that had descended. The cuisine by the pool is Napa Valley country perfection: grilled tuna, parsley, beans, a little tomato coulis, rucola. A bit further along the resort’s forest, the spa looked out over the trees and offered very natural, wholesome treatments in absolute silence, marked only by occasional birdsong. It was altogether a fitting conclusion to one of the world’s great drives.

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a man and woman walking in a vineyard
a man and woman walking in a vineyard

Pierre Seillan has crafted Vérité wines since 1998. Under Pierre’s leadership, Hélène Seillan stepped into the role of assistant winemaker at the estate to ensure the legacy of the wine is maintained for the next generation

The French-American father-daughter team running Vérité make some of the world’s most sophisticated red wines, inspired by French classic styles, from vineyards in Sonoma, California. Darius Sanai catches up with Hélène Seillan to sip through a glorious portfolio

Like with most luxury goods, France has long been the global reference point for fine wine. If you are hosting a banquet for a monarch, your default is to serve something French; similarly, if you are gifting a wine to someone whose tastes you don’t know, the default is to go French.

a green vineyard with a path through the middle for walking

Knights Valley Vineyards

And yet, just like the rest of the luxury world, there are major players from elsewhere. Red wines from California and sweet whites from Germany, to give just two examples, can command the same or even higher prices than great French wines. And they are made in different styles.

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So what would a tasting of one of California’s most celebrated red wines, with a French name, Vérité (meaning “truth”), with individual wines called La Joie, Le Désir and La Muse respectively, conjure up? To add further intrigue, Vérité’s founding vigneron Pierre Seillan is French, and our tasting was conducted by his daughter and the current custodian of the estate Hélène Seillan, who is entirely bilingual, her life straddling her family’s native Bordeaux and her adoptive homeland of California.

Three bottles of wine in a wooden box

Vérité’s 20th Anniversary Gift Pack

Vérité’s wines are made not in California’s celebrated wine valley of Napa, but in the next valley along, closer to the Pacific Ocean, Sonoma. Each of the three is made with Bordeaux grapes: Le Désir is based on Cabernet Franc, La Joie is based on Cabernet Sauvignon and La Muse is based on Merlot. The wines regularly get top scores of 100/100 or thereabouts from the wine world’s critics.

Green vineyards and hills

Vérité was born through the friendship of Pierre Seillan and Jess Jackson when Jackson asked Seillan to visit Sonoma County in 1997

Hélène herself is delightful (like her wines) and sparkling (unlike her wines). She has the glamour and charm of a French luxury leader, but the easygoing directness of a California winemaker.

Hélène says working with her father is both inspiring and enjoyable, and she shares his view that “the most important part is the vineyard”; that soil and nature are essential to the creation of a fine wine.

Would the wines be the same blend of French sophistication and California brilliance? In a word – yes.

A house with a large terrace

The home of Vérité in Sonoma, California

A tasting of Vérité wines with Hélène Seillan; tasting notes by Darius Sanai

Vérité Le Désir 2019
A 1970s Chanel ball gown, worn down the flowing staircase of a Loire château, still owned by its pre-Revolution aristocrat. This is a wine that will live forever.

A vineyard with a path and greenery

Vérité Jackson Park

Vérité La Joie 2019
A classic 80s power suit worn by a woman CEO breaking through the glass ceiling: complexity, intrigue, delicacy, balance and nerves of steel, and a harbinger of many things to come. We would buy and keep this for decades.

Vérité La Muse 2019
An astonishing wine that you would serve to a president at a banquet at the Élysée Palace, and also happily drink at Le Club 55. Delicious and rich and striking.

A room full of barrels

Pierre Seillan has challenged himself with crafting wines from diverse terroirs, using the same approach to capture the unique expressions of Sonoma County, Bordeaux, and Tuscany in each vintage

Vérité La Joie 2013
With a few more years, La Joie is the same but with more layers, more experience. The intriguing thing about these wines is that, while they are as complex as almost anything from Bordeaux, they don’t go through those very French adolescent periods of being difficult, uptight and grumpy.

Read more: Tasting with sustainable Napa wine producer Beth Novak Milliken

Vérité La Muse 2007
Wine snobs don’t think it’s OK to have favourites – you can say a certain wine “shows better” than another. Hélène is no wine snob, though, because I told her this was my favourite wine of the tasting and she laughed. Maybe it’s the age, a sweet sixteen, but it had the freshness and richness of the first four, with a kind of perfumed soulfulness that was all Billie Holiday.

A sunset on a vineyard with green vines and hills in the distance

Sonoma County is one of the most diverse wine growing regions due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the climate flows from West to East

1998 Vérité
This is a library wine, no longer easily available, showcased in this tasting. For me it tasted like an aged Grand Cru Burgundy (even though those are made from a different kind of grape), silky, subtle, gently revealing itself. At 25 years its no longer bold, like the others, and merits sipping over foie gras (or grilled chanterelles on a biscotte-type toast, if you prefer) while musing out of the French windows of your chateau in La France Profonde, looking at the rain washing over your long lawn, in the autumn.

www.veritewines.com

Vérité wines are occasionally available from stockists around the world: check www.winesearcher.com for details

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On the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe offers spectacular views, world-class skiing courtesy of the Heavenly region and divine lodging at Edgewood Tahoe Resort. And right now, the snow is better than it has been for years, due to a succession of Pacific fronts

California is not a place you immediately associate with skiing. Coastline, beaches, social-media giants, wine and the Beverly Hills Chihuahua, check; shooting through deep powder, maybe not. But skiing is exactly what is on offer at Lake Tahoe, in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the east of the state.

The lake was formed from volcanic and faulting activity, is bigger than Lake Como and so wide you can’t always see from shore to shore, although you are always aware of the mountain ring around. It is located at an altitude of 1,900m, more than enough to make up for its relatively southerly location, while the influence of North America’s vast and icy interior means winters here are usually colder than in the Alps. The lake straddles California and Nevada and there are a few significant ski areas in its mountains. The most famous, and the one we chose, is Heavenly, one of the premium mountain destinations owned and operated by Vail Resorts Hospitality, the luxury-travel company for the great outdoors.

A wooden room with tables and chairs large windows

Luxurious mountain-cabin design in the North Room

Rising up across steep forested mountains at the southeast of Lake Tahoe, Heavenly’s ski area is split between California and Nevada. At its base on the lake’s edge is the resort town of Stateline, Nevada. This being the US, Stateline is a high-altitude mix of wonderful, wacky and tacky. While the natural location is among the most spectacular of any winter-sports resorts in the world, drive down the main street and you find a panoply of strip mall-type boutiques and a casino complex that could have been airlifted out of the suburbs of nearby Las Vegas.

But the area was a resort for the well-to-do from the outset and, just beyond the border in a Nevada forest glade, the buildings disappear as you cruise along the driveway of Edgewood Tahoe Resort. With giant Jeffrey pines beside the lake near the tasteful low-rise hotel complex, you are suddenly in a ski location of dreams. The welcome from the valets is amenable and efficient. The resort has significant eco-credentials: the main Lodge is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certified, and it has received plaudits for its water and land management. Walking into the high atrium, you have the feeling of being in a giant mountain cabin.

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Turn right and you enter the open bar and restaurant area, which looks out over a stone terrace into which is built a huge outdoor pool, steaming in the subzero temperatures of winter with vitality pools all around. Beyond the pool are a few more giant trees before the gardens drop into the lake.

Arriving after a drive from San Francisco, we switched between the pool, very hot Jacuzzi and sun loungers. Warmed by the Jacuzzi, it was remarkably pleasant to lie on the terrace as the sun descended towards the mountains to the west, in a temperature of -3°C. It is a hotel ritual to grab a cocktail from the bar and watch the sun disappear behind the mountain ridge beyond the lake, which separates the resort from the low central valley and population centres of California. It is an astounding welcome by nature and one that no European resort can replicate.

a pool surrounded by snow and trees

The west-facing terrace, complete with Jacuzzi and heated pool

Sunset over and empowered by our margaritas, we wandered to another part of the atrium, which features a bookstore and an exhibition on the hotel’s history. It was founded in the late 19th century as a mail stop for traffic drawn by horses between New York and San Francisco and the gold-rush lands. Just beyond is the hotel sports shop, where we were measured for rental skis and boots by a young and very friendly team. The equipment would be ready and waiting for us at the hotel entrance, from where we would be shuttled to the slopes in the morning.

Heavenly’s ski area is accessed by a long, panoramic and rapid gondola ride, rising from the town a five-minute drive from the hotel. The view from the gondola as it scythes between the trees, while the bowl of Lake Tahoe opens out in its full glory, are worth the journey in itself. The ski area is a delight, with a mix of undulating red and blue runs and eye-popping views of the lake and California on one side, and the Nevada desert on the other. The snow is granular and dry, making turns a treat, with the most exciting routes through the trees. The forest glades are spaced apart, so you can pick your own route through the snow between runs. Wonderful.

A mountain and hotel on a lake covered in snow

Heavenly’s mountains rise behind the eco-friendly complex

The many lifts are efficient and quick, our only bugbear being the mountain food, which is generic (chilli, burgers, chicken). But we had Edgewood to return to at the end of the day, for excellent tapas-style platters in the bar, and vibrant California cuisine in the bistro and restaurant: our favourite dish of seared ahi tuna with togarishi rub, avocado crema, ponzu vinaigrette and Asian greens sums up the style.

Read more: Switzerland, our top pick for summer

Our room was large with some lovely woodland details in the décor and furnishings made of found forest materials. Our balcony overlooked the pool and lake; others overlook the forest, which is equally peaceful. You would, I suspect, have a very tranquil and resetting break if you went to Edgewood and never set foot outside. But combined with the skiing above at Heavenly, it’s a match made in, well, paradise.

Find out more:

vailresorts.com
edgewoodtahoe.com

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX
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A lounge with a patterned carpet and cream chairs

Ritz-Carlton LA elegance in the Club Lounge

In the fourth part of our luxury travel views column from the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the Ritz Carlton, Los Angeles

We are sitting on sun loungers by a rooftop swimming pool. On the table beside us are two unfeasibly green apples and two slightly darker green juices in long glasses. The view to one side stretches to the Pacific Ocean. To the other, a ridge of blue-grey mountains wobbles in the heat haze. It could be any Pacific-rim resort, but it is where such an experience would have been unfeasible a few years back: downtown LA.

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The area, a few miles from my usual LA haunts of Beverly Hills to the northwest and Santa Monica to the west, has never been a tourist attraction. Now, driven by its proximity to the studios of artists who have trained or landed in the city, fleeing more expensive locations, downtown feels, if not the place to be, then a central location from which to explore greater LA.

A bedroom with windows overlooking a city

A corner hotel room with a view

It needed a world-class place to stay, and in The Ritz-Carlton, it has that. At ground level, it looks like a luxury city tower, with separate entrances for the expensive apartments, sorry, “residences”, on one side of the building, and the hotel on the other. I quickly clocked that the Ferraris and Porsches being parked out front by valets belonged to residence owners, rather than hotel guests with seriously exotic rental cars.

On the roof terrace, high above the city, you are in a different world. True, between you
and the ocean and mountains is the LA sprawl, although the pool is sufficiently high that you don’t realise unless you walk to the edge and look.

Unlike the slightly patchy service we can get in some hip boutique hotels springing up in the city, here it’s Ritz-Carlton service all the way. In my experience, this means less formality than, say, Four Seasons, but professionalism all the way.

Arriving late from the airport, we elected for room service, slightly dreading the standard hotel-menu options of club sandwich, pasta or steak, but ordering pistachio pesto campanelle with broccoli, fennel pollen and pecorino. When it came and was set up for us on our big round table by the window, complete with correct wine glasses, we ended up with a chic dinner and a magnificent Californian Chardonnay, with a view of the city lights few LA restaurants could match. We had to make our own atmosphere, but that’s called private dining in a restaurant, and those rooms rarely have this kind of view.

Read more: Luxury Travel Views: Castillo Hotel Son Vida, Mallorca

Next day I saw the real advantage of downtown LA. It’s central. Meeting an artist in south-central? Five-minute drive, not 45. Dinner in Venice? West Hollywood gallery visit? While downtown LA may not be the place you do things, it is a great place from which to do them, without those painful, hour-long drives. Perfect for the traveller with a cross-city schedule.

Find out more: ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/california/los-angeles

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX

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pool surrounded by hills and greenery

frontside view of a house with sky above

In the second part of our luxury travel views column from the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the Four Seasons Napa Valley in California

Autumn and winter are fine times to visit Napa Valley. The sun shines, the crowds aren’t here and nor is the summer heat that increasingly hits Napa, one of the most verdant and spiritual areas of the US. It is also source of some of the world’s greatest wines, thanks to its location on the West Coast, influenced by the cool waters of the Pacific and the semi-desert heat inland. 

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Mention of a Four Seasons resort conjures up visions of palatial buildings and good old-fashioned luxe. Not here. You could quite easily drive past the Four Seasons Napa Valley without noticing it, which is the intention. The resort is situated in a working organic vineyard just outside the northern spa town of Calistoga, and is surrounded by an amphitheatre of hillsides. 

The wooden buildings are environmentally integrated low-rises, biophilic by design, so that nature is incorporated, not counteracted. A series of swimming pools at the centre faces the hills and the sound of piano sonatas lap across the water. Napa Valley has a light that is as famous in California as that of Provence in Europe. Here, it is luminous, reflecting from the pools to the sky. 

grey bathroom with bath

The hotel is located at the northern end of the Silverado Trail, the winding road that lines the eastern side of Napa Valley. The great wine estates of the valley are all a short scenic drive, or a longer but more satisfying bike ride, away. 

True to the laid-back style of both resort and region, the main restaurant, Calistoga’s Living Room at Truss, and its terrace with a view, is a no-tablecloths kind of place, although Four Seasons regulars may feel it’s trying a bit too hard to be cool. You can try the resort’s own wine, a powerful Cabernet Sauvignon that shows it is made here, in the hottest part of the valley. 

Our favourite dining spot – in fact, one of the best dining places in a region famed for its cuisine – was Campo Poolside, the restaurant by the pools. A chicken superfood salad with balsamic vinaigrette had textures and flavours that were crisp, powerful, biting and vivid – perfect Californian lunchtime food. Campo describes itself as Cal-Mexican but, in reality, it serves food that tastes as light as the views. 

barn-style room with tables, chairs, candles

Our room was effectively the top floor of a wooden chalet, with a balcony overlooking the mountains beyond and the vineyards below (we said hello every morning to the gentleman pruning the vines). It had the feel of being your own residence in the vines (the room had its own entrance and staircase); clever and distinctive. 

Read more: Hotel of the Month: The Lygon Arms, the Cotswolds

The resort, with its extended grounds, is very open and outdoors-based, with pathways to walk on or to ride around on in a buggy. It’s great in perfect weather, exposed in the rain. But it doesn’t rain much in Napa, especially these days. 

Find out more: fourseasons.com/napavalley 

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX

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framed polaroids hung up on a wall
framed polaroids hung up on a wall

Andy Warhol’s polaroids framed at Bar Nineteen12 at The Beverly Hills Hotel

To be a fly on the wall at Studio 54, privy to Hollywood glamour and New York nightlife, during Warhol’s heyday is now closer than ever. The largest private photography collection of its sort is currently adorning the walls of the context-appropriate Beverly Hills hotel. LUX speaks to the art curator of The Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air, Jim Hedges, to find out more about the curation and selection of images

The collection, belonging to James R. Hedges consists of photographic still life moments and memories of Warhol’s innermost circle of confidants and collaborators, from Jerry Hall to Grace Jones, and will now reside on the walls of Bar Nineteeen12, which has reopened just in time to celebrate the Hotel’s 110th anniversary taking place this year.  

The photos taken by his infamous Polaroid and a unique 35mm black and white silver gelatin print, are not only ‘behind the scenes’ moments of a star-studded life, but works of art in their own right that fit in a Warholian canon. From his use of photo appropriation from Hollywood stills in the 50s to use of a Times Square Photo Booth in the 60s, these photographs are decidedly closer to the artist’s hand than in previous snapshots.

Jerry Hall and Grace Jones black and white photo

Jerry Hall and Grace Jones are shown together at the Palladium night club in New York in May 1985. Image courtesy of Hedges Projects, Los Angeles. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

LUX: How did you find the challenge of curating in a space which does not have a sole artistic purpose such as a traditional gallery does?
JH: Art can be experienced in a variety of venues, and white box galleries are often sterile, intimidating and unwelcoming. Showcasing Andy Warhol’s works in a more residential, human-scale environment creates a more initiated engagement with the work and animates the space even more.

LUX: You will have so many people passing through the Bar, how does the curation urge them to slow down and enjoy the photographer?
JH: Each wall is installed with different themes and subjects, such that the visitor is taken on a journey into Andy Warhol’s world of celebrity, Studio 54, his own studio, The Factory, and organized by venues and subject themes.

black and white photo of a topless man sitting with another man at a table

Andy Warhol with Ronald Perelman at the Beverly Hills Hotel, circa 1985. Image courtesy of Hedges Projects, Los Angeles. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

LUX: How did you select the images from the large Hedges IV Collection of Andy Warhol Photography?
JH: I wanted to offer an encyclopedic survey of Warhol’s photograph oeuvre and pulled works which spoke to the best of his images and subjects and were relevant to The Beverly Hills Hotel in some manner.

LUX: Warhol is perhaps not as widely known for his photography; do you think the presentation of this collection will amplify this medium in his pop culture canon?
JH: Warhol was above all else a photographer. He used a camera from the time he was a child and nearly every painting or print he made in his career began as a photographic image, such as Hollywood publicity shots, newspaper images, or polaroid’s he took of his subjects at The Factory. Warhol’s first gestures as an artist were with a camera, and the final exhibition of his life was of photography.

A woman with short brown hair and a fringe wearing a white blouse

Carol Burnett, 1978. Image courtesy of Hedges Projects, Los Angeles. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

LUX: How can these photographs give us a greater insight to Warhol as an artist, and further the wider social scene at the time?
JH: The works provide a survey of Warhol’s photography practice over the course of nearly 30 years giving us insights to his art making process, his social circles, his travels and his singular ability to identify iconic imagery.

LUX: Is there a photograph that defines the artist and the collection for you?
JH: The expansive breadth and depth of Warhol’s subjects show that there is truly a Warhol for everyone. His photography practice is so diverse that it defies limited definitions.

The exhibition is free and open to the public Tuesday – Saturday between 3pm and 11pm in Bar Nineteen12, at The Beverly Hills Hotel

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An old green Lamborghini in front of palm trees on a roof
red and white leather interior of an old classic Ferrari

Interior of the 1955 Ferrari 250 Europa GT Coupé

Maarten Ten Holder, Managing Director of Bonhams Motoring, tells LUX his top picks at Bonhams Quail Auction in California, ahead of the sale on Friday 19th August 2022. A sale which features cars being sold up to $3,400,000.

It may not be winter, but the West Coast is calling and the classic car world is gathering in Northern California for Monterey Car Week. This Mecca for serious car collectors includes the world-famous Pebble Beach Concours. Bonhams Quail Auction takes place in tandem with the equally glamorous Quail Motorsports gathering garden party this Friday (19 August). Our 25th silver anniversary sale offers a host of precious metal.

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1963 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight Competition, estimate on request

An old white car with the number 14 on the side on a track

1963 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight Competition

Owned by that giant of US motor racing, (and Americas Cup winner) Briggs Cunningham, and driven at Le Mans no less, this is one of the most important early racing Jaguars.

It’s a rare beast too – one of only 12 Competition cars, built with aluminium bodies and hard top and alloy 3.8-litre engine (hence it’s Lightweight label), sold exclusively to Jaguar’s preferred customers.

Significantly restored in the 1980s yet retaining its original bodywork and matching-numbers engine, this E-Type is eligible for the world’s most prestigious concours and historic races.

1938 Type 57C Atalante, estimate $2.8 – 3.4 million

black and yellow classic car in front of a garage

1938 Type 57C Atalante

This supercharged art deco masterpiece, designed by Jean Bugatti, was the supercar of the golden age, reaching a top speed of 120mph, when most cars aimed for 50 mph.

One of only five aluminium 57Cs, the Bugatti was the 1938 Paris Salon display car but has largely been under wraps for much of its life, firstly hidden during the Second World War, then kept for many years without turning a wheel in the garage of a later keeper’s chateau.

1969 Lamborghini P400S Miura, estimate $1,75 – 2,25 million

An old green Lamborghini in front of palm trees on a roof

1969 Lamborghini P400S Miura

Eternally young, the Lamborghini Miura was the car that put Lamborghini on the map and is often called the most beautiful car of its age. Gandini’s svelte design for Bertone is complemented by the evocative soundtrack from its Lamborghini’s brilliant V12 engine, placed behind the driver. landmark in the history of Italian sports cars. This 1969 P400S Miura, estimated at $1,750,000-2,250,000 and offered with no reserve.

1955 Ferrari 250 Europa GT Coupe, estimate $2.25 – 2.75 million

A white car driving on a road

1955 Ferrari 250 Europa Coupé

The great rival to Lamborghini is represented by seven models at Quail, including a trio of early cars led by the very last Ferrari 250 Europa GT built. This landmark model is regarded as the first of the iconic Ferrari GTs.

Styled and built by Pinin Farina, this car was first exhibited at the 1956 Brussels Motor Show and raced in period at Spa Francorchamps. In the late 2000s, the matching numbers car was the subject of a superb, factory-correct restoration, while retaining its original bodywork and chassis and is Ferrari Classiche ‘Red Book’ Certified.

1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupé, estimate $1.4 – 1.7 million

a red car with the doors opening over the roof

1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupé

Instantly recognisable – not just to car enthusiasts – the 300SL is considered the greatest sports car of the 1950s, with famous successes at Le Mans, Targa Florio and of course the 1955 Mille Miglia, won by Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson at a record average speed of just under 100mph.

Read more: The Style And Substance Series: Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition

This superb example has been kept by the same family from new, originally used as a daily driver by its first owner, Greek shipping magnate George C. Makris, then latterly stored by his children in a climate-controlled environment. Superbly restored while retaining its original engine, bodywork, desirable Rudge wheels and original Becker Mexico radio, the 300SL has covered under 22,000 miles over its lifetime.

Ex-Steve McQueen 1971 Husqvarna 400 Cross, estimate $130,000 – 180,000

a red and black motorbike

Ex-Steve McQueen 1971 Husqvarna 400 Cross

The King of Cool was a known petrolhead (think of his passion project film ‘Le Mans’) and a motorcycle enthusiast, famously riding on screen in The Great Escape and On Any Sunday, the bike movie in which Husqvarnas featured heavily.

This ‘Husky’ was one of McQueen’s favourite off-road bikes and was kept by the actor until his death in 1980. The lovingly preserved, authentic machines offered in “as last ridden by McQueen” condition and still scarred with all the dents and dings from his regular rides.

Bonham’s Quail Auction will begin at 11am PDT/ 7pm BST on Friday 19th August

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seaweed in the water and a building on the shore
seaweed in the water and a building on the shore

The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, whose global seafood programme, Seafood Watch, advises the fishing industry and governments on how to operate sustainably

Julie Packard, scion of the US tech family, has changed the way we eat with her Seafood Watch initiative. She says collaboration between philanthropists, governments and corporates is the only way forward

LUX: What happens in the deep sea has a direct effect on our lives and the health of the planet. How do these links work and what has been discovered in recent years?
Julie Packard: We call our planet Earth, but 71 per cent of the surface and 99 per cent of the living space is ocean. The aquarium tells the story of ‘the other 99 per cent’. The ocean enables life to exist on this planet. Its microscopic plant life absorbs carbon and produces oxygen. Its vast waters have absorbed 90 per cent of the heat caused by rising greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere. Deep-sea currents are part of a vast unseen global conveyor belt that cycles nutrients, oxygen and heat through the ocean, supporting an abundance of marine life, which travels up and down the water column, storing carbon in deep waters, where it’s locked away.

A woman with grey hair speaking into a microphone with a purple backdrop

Julie Packard

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LUX: You are a proponent of nature-based solutions as an economically and environmentally sustainable way forward for the planet. What does that mean in reality for oceans and coastlines?
JP: Earth is an interconnected living system whose services make our lives possible. It’s time to reinvest in nature, instead of treating it as a bottomless bank account. That means restoring wetlands and other coastal ecosystems, which are nurseries for fisheries and buffer us against sea-level rise, as well as protecting us from escalating storms. Restoring healthy seagrass meadows is one example. We’re finding that our decades of work to recover California sea otters is helping to restore healthy wetland seagrass beds. These otters are more than a cute face. We call them ‘furry climate warriors’.

A starfish with sprouts coming out of it

A close up of a Basket star in the Into the Deep: Exploring Our Undiscovered Ocean exhibit

LUX: Are you in despair about what has happened to our oceans, or optimistic about the scientific advances pointing to solutions – and if the latter, which ones?
JP: Without question, we face daunting challenges. If we fail to act, the world will be a grim place for our children and grandchildren. I’m confident that solutions are within our grasp. Renewable energy development is moving faster than ever, and the cost of these technologies is falling. We can put people to work rebuilding healthy ecosystems so nature can do what it does best. We know what we need to do. What we need is the will to take action.

Blue jellyfish all entangled in eachother

A close up of a moon jelly (Aurelia labiata) in the Open Sea exhibit

LUX: You have focused on sustainable seafood: do you feel there is genuine progress being made here, not just in wealthy nations, but in countries where hundreds of millions fish for subsistence?
JP: Unsustainable fishing is a problem we know how to solve, and we’re seeing huge progress. The market-based approach, taken by the aquarium’s global seafood programme, Seafood Watch, with its sustainability rating system, is succeeding, because our goal is a future where both fisheries and the people who depend on them thrive. It creates incentives for producing nations to put their fisheries and aquaculture operations on a sustainable footing, enabling them to gain access to the global market. The key is genuine engagement with small-scale producers – we’re collaborating with operations in India, Indonesia, and Vietnam – to solve their real-world problems and deliver benefits that make a difference in their lives.

An orange and pink luminous jellyfish

A close up of a Bloody-belly comb jelly in the Into the Deep: Exploring Our Undiscovered Ocean exhibit

LUX: Who is making the biggest difference – philanthropists, corporations or governments?
JP: Everyone has a role to play. Philanthropy jump-started the global sustainable seafood movement. Today, its investments support early stage development of technologies to reduce greenhouse gasses in the shipping and energy industries, and in community-led work to strengthen the resilience of ocean ecosystems.

Read more: The Futures: A Token Of Goodwill

Corporations know their success depends on embracing an approach that values people, planet and profit. Governments set the ‘rules of the game’ that create incentives to protect the living ocean and make it expensive to damage ecosystems on which our survival depends.

a shark swimming through a forest of kelp

A leopard shark (Triakis semifasciata) swimming in the Kelp Forest exhibit

LUX: Is there more of a connection to be made between art and science, concerning ocean conservation?
JP: Having observed people in the aquarium, we’ve seen that building an emotional connection to ocean life is the starting point. When people encounter our living exhibits, they react with awe. Then we can begin to talk about the threats the ocean faces, and how they can make a difference. It’s the power of art – whether an aquarium, a film, or a piece of music – that engages people. And we’ve always found ways to make science accessible. Our new deep-sea exhibition incorporates gorgeous video imagery of deep-sea animals, ground-breaking living exhibits, and stories of the scientists studying the deep ocean. It’s a compelling combination.

Julie Packard is the executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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Two women standing in a vineyard
Two women standing in a vineyard

Left to right: Naoko and Maya Dalla Valle

We taste some of the most admired vintages of Napa Valley, through the decades, with two generations of the owning family of the Dalla Valle estate, Naoko and Maya

Naoko and Maya Dalla Valle make some of the most magical wines in the world. From their vineyards in Rutherford, in California’s Napa Valley, the mother-and-daughter proprietors of the eponymous winery create red wines which combine perfume, subtlety, style and power, that have become cult acquisitions for collectors. They also score high in the increasingly important sustainability stakes, as all the estate’s vines are farmed organically.

Dalla Valle was started by Naoko and her husband Gustav in 1986; it shot onto the wine world map in the early 1990s, when Robert Parker, the super-critic and then the man who could make or break a high-end winery, gave a perfect 100/100 score to their flagship wine, Maya.

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As well as being their most prized wine, made from their best vineyards, Maya was their daughter, then a baby. Thirty years later, Maya is the winemaker and increasingly active in running the estate. Parker no longer makes or breaks a wine’s image, but standards are still the same. The Dalla Valle wines, made of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, come from vineyards on the Rutherford Bench, just above the valley floor of Napa and home to what wine enthusiasts would call some of the best “terroir” in the region, which now produces some of the world’s most expensive wines.

The two wines we tasted on our Zoom tasting and chat are celebrated for an elegance, complexity and sophistication that is not always found in the great (in every sense) wines of the Napa Valley. Below are short extracts of our conversation, and our tasting notes.

green vineyard with a pathway in the middle and mountains in the distance

LUX: Can you go back in time and tell us about making your first wines?
Naoko Dalla Valle: We created the Cabernet Sauvignon in 1986 commercially. Then 1987, we purchased more land from the neighbour and we planted additional about five acres of Cabernet sauvignon. And that turned out to be the best vineyard on the property and then we combined with that highest quality of the Cabernet franc we produced, and decided to create this special wine called Maya. People think she is named after wine, she came first! We immediately got noticed by Robert Parker and we immediately started getting very high scores and then by 1990, we got 99 points. For the 1992 vintage, we received 100 points from Robert Parker, we were the second winery in America to receive that score. That put us on the map. We have been fortunate to be able to maintain the quality.
Maya Dalla Valle: I would also point out the fact that, my father unfortunately passed away in winter, December 1995. So shortly after we had learnt about this 92 vintage Maya, so it was also a very sentimental moment but also for my father, he passed knowing that we were going to be ok. I am first generation American, both my parents came from different countries [Japan and Italy]. My mother had the choice to sell the winery and go back to Japan to work. We had family there, she could have easily have done that, but she had grown a fondness and a deep love for our property and the vineyard and land and winemaking, that she really took this business to next level.

LUX: What makes your terrain special?
Maya Dalla Valle: We are on the east side of Napa Valley, and it is about 500 feet elevation at the peak. What’s interesting is that this little bench that we sit on is a result of a landslide that occurred four million years ago, from volcanic origin, so we have volcanic iron rich bedrock soil… things are constantly moving. We often see these small boulders pop up in the vineyard each year through the surface. It makes us wonder sometimes if we are farming rocks or farming grapes.

a woman with two dogs

Maya Dalla Valle and her corgis

LUX: You represent a generational change of winemaker. Has there been a generational change of consumer preferences?
Maya Dalla Valle: The younger consumer is not the same kind of buyer as the previous generation. They seek more authenticity and are able to connect with your brand. Then they become more loyal. You need to show them what you are doing in a way they can feel like they connect with you. We talk a lot about our sustainability, we are organic, we did organic certification for our vineyard to show accountability of what we do.

The tasting: (notes by Darius Sanai)

Dalla Valle Maya 1990
Scents of black olive, truffles, perfume top notes, a wine you could wear to the ball at the Chateau de Versailles. At the same time it is rich and dense, but not at all heavy, on the palate. Tastes develop in the mouth for a long time. One of the great wines of the world today, at 32 years old, but I would like to try it again when it is 64. The star of the show.

Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon 1992
Very deep, layered wine, stratified, almost. Lots of muscle, black fruits and herbs. One for Kobe beef, simply grilled, on a Friday evening alone.

Dalla Valle Maya 2010
Like a young Russian prince wearing a cloak. Beautiful but quite closed to start with; opened up after half an hour of conversation, to reveal a complex, surprisingly delicate personality.

a vineyard and mountains in the distance

Dalla Valle Vineyard

Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Quite different to the Maya, remarkable that it is grown from land so nearby. Full and rich, black fruits and mountain herbs, and a zinginess that makes it quite distinctive. To share with an old friend, in your mountainside ranch in Wyoming.

Read more: Luxury Travel Views: Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa, Épernay

Dalla Valle Maya 2018
Expected this to be very closed, as it’s so young, but this is like walking into a jewellery shop, with a multitude of colours of flavour. Dazzling stuff, and you would drink it while celebrating your latest deal, but with a hint of guilt, because it will plainly be so much better in decades.

Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
A rich Napa cabernet, meaning power and weight, and also with a lightness, meaning people who prefer elegant wines will also enjoy it immensely, particularly over a meal of grilled miso vegetables on the terrace of your Umbrian palazzo on a coolish May evening.

Find out more: dallavallevineyards.com

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artist standing between a blue and red painting
Jeffrey Deitch Gallery
Meeting art doyen Jeffrey Deitch at his gallery in West Hollywood

Part One: Art & rediscovery in LA

When I was spending a lot of time in LA in the 1990s, there were some areas a visitor would avoid at all costs unless they had to. Three of these were South Central, Downtown, and the web of roads behind the boardwalk at Venice Beach.

I am due to visit all three. Heading to LA mainly for Frieze LA, where I am meeting with our partners at Deutsche Bank Wealth Management, the long-term partners of Frieze, I have added a full California schedule on to the three-day art fair itinerary. LA, from Beverly Hills to South Central, is just the beginning.

Partly this is for sustainability reasons, to minimise future flights, and also because I have not been to California since before the pandemic, and as ever it is home to many of the world’s thought and opinion leaders, some of whom are on my schedule, as well as a thriving art scene in LA itself.

I spent the ten years before the pandemic commuting many times a year to Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as on short haul trips to Europe for Condé Nast, my other alma mater. Meaning I built up a British Airways Gold membership and accompanying dependence. I had not been to the Virgin Clubhouse for years. The feel is as much private club as airline lounge, with the key differentiator of excellent customer service. I had a wonderful chat with a manager at the lounge who was bemoaning her inability to return to her native Hong Kong, and we exchanged tips on restaurants there (hers, mainly). When the chairs, food, and champagne are largely the same, this makes a difference. I silently wish Virgin had short and mid-haul operations to my frequently visited European and former-Soviet destinations.

Editor’s note: LUX paid for its flights to California in full and received no support from any airline.

a man and woman standing on a terrace

We met with Forbes 30 Under 30 curator, Emilia Yin, at the Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Lounge at Frieze LA

Central LA is a grid of warehouses, yards and unmarked buildings. Nowadays, inside some of these there are artists’ studios, the artists driven here from around the Americas and elsewhere by then cheap rents. As ever, the artists move in, hipsters get the vibe and start to gentrify, and the artists are forced to move out. That hasn’t happened yet in central LA, but it will. So I enjoyed the moment of visiting a few studios, buried behind delivery yards and run-down buildings, with real working artists inside them. No cafes, no galleries, no bars. Give it two years. It’s a cert that the property investors are already there.

A friend with homes in LA sends me a WhatsApp suggesting I visit Gjelina, on Abbot Kinney Boulevard behind Venice Beach, for dinner. I last knew this street as needle central, with a few porn and pawn shops thrown in (homophones that go together), in the late 90s. But my friend has taste, and many homes, so I take his advice. The food is vibrant, trim, focussed and beautiful, like the clientele. Like nothing anywhere else.

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The street is now lined with (expensive) independent fashion boutiques and teenage TikTokkers wander around making TikToks. They fit the TikTok profile of being blonde, white and wealthy. The porn and the pawn have now moved and multiplied online, but where have all the junkies gone, I wonder? Elsewhere in Donald Trump’s ‘American Carnage’?

artist standing between a blue and red painting

Ross Caliendo is among numerous artists from around the world who have set up in the warehouses around downtown LA

two men standing side by side

Meeting with ocean conservation icon Jean Michel Cousteau in Santa Barbara

I host some clients at the pre-opening event at Frieze, created by Deutsche Bank, in Michael Jackson‘s former mansion above Beverly Hills. People are happy to be able to meet and mingle after two hard years, which seem to have hit LA hard. There is a sense of anticipation about the fair. People have travelled, and people in LA have prepared. It’s the first major cultural event in the city for two years. Art really can catalyse human change.

At the fair the next day, everyone is waxing lyrical about the lounge. Deutsche Bank’s team have created an indoor-outdoor space with garden and water, a few footsteps from the fair and linked by a private walkway. Many guests comment that it should be permanent. Meetings in the lounge are bound by Chatham House rules, but there are plenty of guests, our own and others, who have come from afar, and are loving both fair and lounge. Bravo to the creators, although the Deutsche Bank lounge at Frieze London, with its creations by Idris Khan and events on ocean conservation, was still the more artistic and focussed. In my view.

I drive to West Hollywood to see Jeffrey Deitch, an art world force since the 1970s. In his private gallery, which is probably three times the size of the Serpentine Gallery museum in London, he has put together a museum-grade show, entitled Luncheon on the Grass. Works from Mickalene Thomas, Jeff Koons, Kehinde Wiley and Paul McCarthy line the walls. I am taken by Tschabalala Self’s response to Édouard Manet’s ‘Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe’ in particular. A few of the interpretations are quite explicit.

Which is quite honest, as the idea of a summer lunch on the grass probably brings that out in many people. Any romance aside, I make a mental sketch of my dejeuner sur l’herbe: it would involve rosé champagne from a small producer like Chartogne Taillet and might ask a question of why people enjoying the countryside in my adopted homeland of England are so predominantly white. I decide the reason I like Deitch’s show so much is that it reveals so much about the artists, and how they want to be perceived, or appear to want to be perceived. I will leave the topic there to avoid falling into the trap of the dreaded (and banned in LUX) language of ‘artspeak’.

Deitch tells me it is his busiest day for meetings for years, another sign of what a good art fair can bring to a city.

Maubourne Pool
The Rooftop at the Maybourne Beverly Hills

The next morning, I drop in on a new friend I made at the fair, Emilia Yin, who was introduced to me by a major collector I invited to the Deutsche Bank Wealth Management lounge. I meet her at her Make Room gallery. Also in West Hollywood, it is in a little building behind a car park off the main drag, Melrose Avenue. There is a sense of both Zen and intent inside, and the paintings in her show, by young Brussels-based Italian artist Jacopo Pagin, all sold within days. I buy the last remaining work, an intriguing sketch. I wonder if she is one of the Jeffrey Deitches of the future.

After three days of intense art and meetings, I take a morning swim in the rooftop pool of the Maybourne hotel in Beverly Hills. The Maybourne, grand but laid-back, has a part-city, part-resort vibe and the view from the roof terrace is surprisingly restful. I pick out my favourite mansions in the hills over a green juice.

I have meetings lined up in the afternoon in Santa Barbara and Montecito. Santa Barbara’s main street, State Street, has been pedestrianised at its seafront end and it’s abuzz with cafes, bars, restaurants and an outdoor market. A positive outcome of the pandemic. A little further up the street I meet Jean-Michel Cousteau, octogenarian sage of the oceans, at his offices, which are lined with pictures and souvenirs of his decades in ocean wildlife conservation and filmmaking. There’s a touching picture of him as a small boy with his father Jacques, giving him instructions on how to dive.

Details of our conversation are saved for a major feature in the next issue of LUX, so stay tuned.

Read more: Olivia Muniak’s Guide to the Best Restaurants in Los Angeles

 

Ten minutes’ drive from Santa Barbara is Montecito, the chichi coastal community which plays host to Harry and Meghan, as well as many other members of the world’s rich and famous. It’s supposed to be a low-key place, I am told. I drive past bijou small shops and cafes, created in a faux-rustic style, all perfect. Perfect children walk past holding immaculate ice creams. On the road to the Rosewood Miramar Beach resort, where I am meeting my contact, three police cars, lights on full colour strobe, have formed a triangle, partly blocking the road. As I drive past, I see one individual sitting slumped on the spotless pavement. I wonder what his crime was. Perhaps not owning a Tesla?

My meeting takes place in a wood-panelled drawing room overlooking the beach, with a couple of islands visible in the slash of gold from the setting sun. I feel I am George Clooney in the last scene of a feel-good movie, concluding Bourbon in hand in a highball glass. Except this is the first scene of a (admittedly potentially exciting) business deal, I am not George Clooney, I do not live here, and I am drinking tea.

Back to LA in the dark, the traffic has died down, and I have a calming Margarita in the bar of the Maybourne to prepare me for the drive north the next day.

To be continued

An airport lounge

The Virgin Clubhouse at London Heathrow has a members’ club feel

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vineyards
vineyards

Harlan Estate’s vineyards in Napa Valley, California

Will Harlan is the second-generation managing director of California’s iconic Harlan Estate, maker of some of the most expensive and desirable red wines in the world. Over a Zoom tasting of the winery’s flagship wines, Harlan, who took over from his father Bill this year, talks to LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai about how to create a business for the generations

LUX: Your father Bill Harlan, who founded Harlan Estate, got into the wine business almost by accident.
Will Harlan: Yes, Harlan Estate is the first wine endeavour that my father founded, it got started in the early 80s and his vision for Harlan Estate evolved over the course of his life. He grew up in Los Angeles, not around wine, or anything, but he had the opportunity to go to Berkeley [part of the University of California].

During his college years, that he had heard about this place up north, where you could taste wine for free. They wouldn’t check your ID and he really enjoyed going up there as a college student and kind of developed this very fuzzy dream that someday, if he could ever afford it, he would love to find a piece of land, plant a vineyard, make a little bit of wine, start a family.

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He graduated and did a number of different things, but it wasn’t until he approached his forties where he finally had the wherewithal to be able to start thinking more seriously about this dream of coming to Napa. It was probably in the late 70s that he started coming up here and looking for vineyard land, not knowing anything about the wine industry, and through a certain series of events, he tried to purchase a piece of property.

man looking out over vineyards

Will Harlan, second-generation managing director of Harlan Estate

[Napa wine legend] Robert Mondavi really took my dad under his wing, wanting to show him the potential of Napa and that not all land in Napa is created equal. Robert understood how fuzzy this original dream that my father had was and maybe how naïve it was too, but he also recognised that my dad was genuinely interested in doing something in wine and wanted to help.

Mondavi says, “Bill, I know you’re interested in buying some land in Napa Valley, but not all land is created equal. I want to send you to France and really show you what some of the great wines of the world are all about, pieces of land that they’ve been able to capture and what sets them apart.” So he organised a trip for my dad to go to Bordeaux and Burgundy, made the introductions. At the time I don’t think the French wine producers were particularly excited about welcoming random Americans into their homes so it was really important that Robert was able to set this up. My father returned to Napa Valley with this drive, this new vision of wanting to create a “first growth” of California.

LUX: What is your personal vision for Harlan Estate?
Will Harlan: I’m very excited for the future. I feel like there’s so much potential. As a region, I think we’re really coming into our own, in terms of an international kind of understanding and recognition, but I also feel that there’s always the opportunity to understand your land better.

Read more: Product designer Tord Boontje on sustainable materials

LUX: How does Napa Valley compare to Bordeaux, or specifically your wines to top wines from Pauillac (home of chateaux like Lafite, Latour and Mouton-Rothschild)?
Will Harlan: We never like drawing comparisons. They are all different expressions of Cabernet and I think that’s wonderful. We have quite different climates. In Napa Valley, we have almost no rain during the growing season, but we have plenty of sunshine and the humidity is very low so we don’t have mildew issues. We have vines that get quite dry by the end of the growing season so we’ve got to focus almost all of our efforts on ensuring that all of our vineyards are used to this low hydration environment by forcing them to grow very deep root systems for example.

It’s very easy for us to ripen fruit. It’s never really a question whether or not we’re going to achieve ripeness. For us, it’s about aligning that ripeness at an earlier stage in the season before acidity begins dropping off and before sugars start to rise too much.

At the end of the day, the character of the two regions is quite different and I feel that the best thing you can do is to try to really understand your plot within your region and make it the best version of itself.

wine tank room

The Harlan Estate tankroom

LUX: We know some wine collectors who think about buying wine estates and then decide against it, saying they will be a money-pit..
Will Harlan: I’d say they’re probably right! It requires a lot more investment than people expect, but mainly, a lot more time. People who are very wealthy tend to understand return on investment timelines very well and once they start understanding what that means in the wine world, they think, “Right, you wouldn’t touch this.” So, I think it really comes down to what are your motives? Are you doing this because you happen to love wine and you love drinking wine and you think it would be fun and interesting? I would probably say  that’s not the ideal lens to approach getting into the wine industry. But if you’re ready to devote your life and your time and your effort, and probably more capital than you might think, then okay.

Read more: Is Germany the next global art hub?

LUX: How much harder is it to make a great wine at this level than a good wine? And what do you have to do differently?
Will Harlan: It probably comes back to my feelings on character versus quality. First of all, it’s about finding a piece of land and being able to capture that land to create a very distinctive wine. It takes a lot of time and resources, but you also need to recruit a team that has the capacity to really dive in and understand the land. You have to have one of the better teams around, but you also have to understand that it takes time, decades, even generations for people to truly connect to the land, to become familiar with the properties, the growing seasons and how they react to different weather environments.

LUX: We are tasting the 2006 Harlan Estate today – is that the year you started being involved in the family business?
Will Harlan: In ‘06, I was almost 20 years old. So, I wasn’t as involved in the family business yet, but I was always a little bit curious about the wine industry. I didn’t actually think I was going to go into it. I don’t think I had the perspective or the context at that age. On the other hand, it was the first year I worked harvest which was the start of my experience.

family on a lawn

The Harlan family on the lawn of the estate

LUX: And then we have the 2012. By then, you were then fully involved. Is that correct?
Will Harlan: I had started working on a little side project. I was living in San Francisco, working in the tech space and the consumer internet tech space. It turns out San Francisco is just close enough to Napa Valley to feel that gravitational pull I had already started to feel. I was curious about wine, and I was starting to attend a lot of the blending sessions that we had.

I had this idea of wanting to create my own little bottling. It didn’t have a label or a name. I was just bringing it to different social events. I ended up building that into its own proper label called “The Mascot”, which is made from the younger vines by different properties. That was the spark for me: getting to see that I could find my own entrepreneurial path within wine and the family business.

So, that’s what drew me in, but of course, I didn’t really have any credibility in wine world. You have to have worked a proper harvest. 2012 happened to be the year that I got really serious about joining the family business and so I spent that growing season in the winery. It was so rewarding and so fascinating to really understand the production side of things.

Read more: The gastronomic delights of Suvretta House, Switzerland

LUX: Was there ever a possibility given how close you are to Silicon Valley, that you might have just ended up there?
Will Harlan: Very much, that’s what I thought my life was going to be. So, I’m glad that I found my way back to wine, but the tech world has always been very interesting to me.  I got to forge a few really strong friendships there with folks that were at the beginnings of their path.

LUX: There’s quite a strong link between Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and Napa Valley vintners…
Will Harlan: There is. I feel like we have two speeds: Silicon Valley moves extremely quickly and Napa Valley moves at the pace of the seasons. I think Silicon Valley oftentimes yearns for something that is connected to the land, something that is physical, something that has a visceral core to it, that connection to nature. But at the same time, Napa Valley can learn from the Silicon Valery approach to work. So, there’s a wonderful connection between the two.

LUX: Bernard Arnault [owner of LVMH and Chateau Cheval Blanc, Dom Pérignon and Krug champagnes, and many more] or Francois Pinault [owner of Chateau Latour, Clos du Tart, and many more] come to you and say, “Name your price. I want your winery.” What do you say?
Will Harlan: We never built any of this with the intention of selling.

LUX: I’m offering you $2 billion.
Will Harlan: We’re not doing this for the money. Before my dad was in wine, he was in real estate development. You can make a lot more money in real estate development than you can making a few thousand cases of wine. It’s never been our driving motive. And as I said before, you only really get into wine if you truly love it.

wine bottle

Harlan Estate 2006

The Wines (tasting notes by Will Harlan and Darius Sanai)

Harlan Estate 1994

Will Harlan: It’s always had a certain energy and an incredible density. It’s a very tight weave, not necessarily a heavy fabric, but the weave is very fine. It’s just beginning to soften, showing you a little bit of detail. We think it’s going to be one of our very long-lived wines.

Darius Sanai: Initial impressions are of a full bodied, fruit-led wine, but after a few seconds this dissolves into an array of lacy micro-flavours, from meats to dried fruit via summer blossom. Remarkable. As good as any top Bordeaux, except different, less stern and reticent, more talkative, but just as much of a polymath. Serve at a dinner with guests including Ptolemy, Queen Elizabeth I, Einstein, Jane Austen and Audrey Hepburn.

Harlan Estate 2006

Will Harlan: A cooler vintage. It’s taken a bit of time for this wine to relax. It’s still in the phase of being a little bit introverted. It has a certain herbal quality that I always recognise and I feel there is some wonderful detail in there and some higher notes.

Darius Sanai: This wine is all about potential. Like dining with a group of star PHD students from Oxford and Stanford. Enjoyable company now – it’s not closed down or dull – but you just know how much more it will have to say in 10 or 20 years.

Harlan Estate 2012

Will Harlan: This is a vintage very close to my heart. It was a very good growing season Wonderful. It always had this welcoming generosity. It is almost this kind of spherical experience on the palate. Very, very welcoming, very approachable and very seductive in a sense. Very plush and velvety tannins.

Darius Sanai: One to open when receiving the Marquise de Pompadour in one of your rooms at Versailles.

Harlan Estate 2016

Will Harlan: In the long run, I feel that this will be recognised as one of the great vintages of Harlan. It’s kind of like the 1994 in a certain sense. The winter before the 2016 vintage, we finally got some much-needed rain. It shows you so much detail and complexity, even though it’s quite young. It’s special.

Darius Sanai: An intellectual and a seducer: rich and rigorous at the same time. It doesn’t taste young, and it’s delicious now, but you know all its complexities will develop over the eras. A wine for the President to open to celebrate the US Tricentennial in 2076.

Find out more: harlanestate.com

 

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wine estate entrance

Spottswoode wine estate in Napa Valley, California

Spottswoode Estate is Napa valley wine aristocracy. Its wines, selling for hundreds of dollars a bottle, are in demand from collectors globally. Beth Novak Milliken, the estate’s second generation owner, is also a leader in sustainability and biodiversity and has secured coveted B-Corp certification for the estate. She speaks to LUX about her challenges and hosts a tasting of some of her finest wines for us over Zoom
woman standing on driveway

Beth Novak Milliken

LUX: Where does your sustainability ethos come from?
Beth Novak Milliken: It started in 1985, Tony Soter started to take us down a path that we really couldn’t have envisioned would take us where it is now. He was our founding winemaker and started making our wines in 1982. In 1985, he went to my mum and said that he really wanted to take over the farming of the vineyard. He made the suggestion of organic farming and as she trusted him a great deal, she said, “Sure, let’s give it a try!”

That was way back before people were talking about organics – we were amongst the first to farm organically here. We stuck with the organics and planted with that in mind, and never looked back.

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Around 2000, we started planting the insectaries in the vineyard to bring some biodiversity to what is obviously a mono-culture. We set up solar power at the winery in 2007 and added solar  at the estate the same year. We get a great majority of our power from solar, and that which we don’t get from solar is from renewables. Then in May 2019, we came up with our core purpose statement, and all of a sudden everything accelerated.

vineyards

The Spottswoode vineyards

LUX: What are your aims and dreams?
Beth Novak Milliken: We want to inspire others. I’ve been looking to Yvon Chouinard, the Founder of Patagonia (he is truly my hero), what he has done and how he has pushed for environmental causes in such an amazing way. We joined 1% for the Planet in 2007 and since then we’ve given a minimum of 1% of gross revenue every year to environmental causes that we believe in (it’s usually more than one percent) and it’s a remarkable; you start to feel like your business is something greater than just yourself.

I am the second generation of what will, hopefully, be a long-term multi-generational family business and our biggest threat to continued success is climate change because we are agriculturally based and that really brings it home. In ’17, ’18, ’19 and ’20, we had the highest heats we’ve ever had. We had 117° F (47 C) one day – that’s desert heat!

We have had historic fires that just seem to keep coming, and it is a consequence of climate change. It is is hotter, drier, warmer, windier, and a lot more variable. It’s a remarkable time, and we feel like we really need to act to inspire others.

Read more: A glamorous escape to the Lanesborough

LUX: Was there ever a choice, long-term, between quality of wine and sustainability, or sustainability versus keeping the business going?
Beth Milliken: Never. The two are completely compatible.

LUX: Tell us more about the B-Corp certification and why you decided on it?
Beth Novak Milliken: B-Corp is the gold standard for a business that operates for good, that operates because it cares about its community, the planet, its employees, everything really. It’s how we’ve been operating anyway, so this was really just taking that and putting a certification on it.

It’s a very rigorous process. There are many questions about how you treat your natural environment and how you treat your employees, everything from pay to wellbeing. We feed people here everyday, we always have, and it’s always organic food. We’re minimising waste, and taking care of our community.

LUX: In terms of the sustainability side, what’s next? As a wine-producer, what must you do?
Beth Novak Milliken: We are applicant members of International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA). We are going to be LEED-certified on this entire property, and we’re working on our zero-waste platinum certification.

four wine bottles

A selection of Spottswoode wines

A tasting of a historical collection of Spottswoode wines, hosted by Beth Milliken over Zoom

Tasting notes by Darius Sanai

Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon 1985

Wow! The greatest aged Napa Cabernets have a unique character, completely distinct either from what they tasted like in their youth, or from aged Bordeaux made from similar grape varieties. On opening, this had a port/cognac “rancio” layer to it; after a few minutes, that diffused and we were left with this lifted, almost light, but nevertheless deep, earthy, woodland soil filled wine with a core of steely dark fruits. If I had blind tasted it I would have guessed it was a Grand Cru Chambertin from Burgundy – not a Cabernet Sauvignon. Amazing stuff and proof too much Napa wine is drunk too young.

Pair with: Cep mushrooms on plain polenta, while sitting on a mountainside in the Alto Adige in northeast Italy while having a chance meeting with someone you broke up with many years ago and are still in love with. Don’t ask why, just do.

Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon 1996

This is a wine to serve to the kind of narrow-minded snob who says all California wines are obvious, fruity and easy. It is as iron-clad as any Pauillac from 1996 (Pichon Lalande springs to mind), behind the curtain of tannin is an array of subtle savouriness. No fruit bombs here. One that will develop even more.

Pair with: Dinner with a client who proclaims only to like old-fashioned Bordeaux, at their house in Schwabing. Serve it blind and prepare to be amused.

Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Roasting coffee! Almonds! Thistles! This is a wine with massive presence and subtlety, simultaneously. There’s some creamy fruit in there also but it’s at the back and very restrained, like smelling it in its packet rather than eating it. It’s 15 years old and needs another 15 years. But it’s very balanced.

Pair with: This one needs a muscular bavette or skirt steak, with apologies to our vegan readers; ideally at a steakhouse in New York City, with the guys at the next table hollering about the game or some deal they made or a girl.

Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

After concluding that the 1996 and 2006 are possibly too young to drink now, what about the 2018, from a stellar vintage? Ironically the 2018 is delicious, creamy-rich with bluecurrant (not a thing but that’s what it tastes like) and branchy tannins balancing themselves out on a see-saw on your tongue. Irresistible.

Pair with: Share with your closest friends at dinner by the shore of Lake Geneva in summer, over some aged Comte cheese and maybe very old Mimolette.

Find out more: spottswoode.com

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dancers
dancers in the desert

Still from Within, directed and choreographed by Benjamin Millepied with music by Thomas Roussel. Photograph by Melissa Roldan

To celebrate the launch of their latest timepiece, Richard Mille invited choreographer Benjamin Millepied and composer Thomas Roussel to create a short film incorporating original dance and music. Here, Abigail Hodges takes a closer look at the performance and watch design
silver watch

RM72-01

The Richard Mille 72-01 Lifestyle In-House Chronograph is the brand’s first flyback chronograph made entirely in-house, and through its design it aims to weave together tradition and modernity – a concept which is also at the heart of WITHIN, a short film created by Benjamin Millepied and Thomas Roussel, set in the desert landscape of southern California.

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The film brings together the physical wonder of a ballet performance and the powerful sound of orchestral music to celebrate the precise art of watchmaking and Richard Mille’s bold, contemporary design aesthetic.

dancer in the desert

dancers

Both images: stills from Within. Photography by Melissa Roldan

While Millepied’s choreography – performed by two dancers – reflects how classical structure and form may be artistically reinvented, Thomas Roussel’s composition blends orchestral and electronic elements to create a dramatic, vibrant soundtrack which was performed by the 50 musicians of the London Symphony Orchestra and recorded at St. Luke’s Church in London.

Read more: Philanthropist Keith Breslauer on combining business & charity

The watch itself aligns with Richard Mille’s avant-garde approach to time-keeping and design (the watch face, for example, features only the numbers three, eight and eleven), but it is also one of the brand’s subtler and more elegant models. Worn on the wrists of both dancers in the film, it pairs perfectly with their formal costumes and the stark, dramatic landscape.

Watch the film below:

For more information visit: richardmille.com

 

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Jelly fish in the water
Jelly fish in the water

Sea Nettle jelly fish might appear calm and graceful, but their tentacles are covered in stinging cells used for hunting. Image: screenshot from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s live jelly cam

We’ve found a new form of meditation: watching the graceful drift of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s jelly fish via a live underwater cam

Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California is a non-profit aquarium famous for its conservation efforts and protection of rare marine animals. Like most places, the aquarium is currently closed to the public, but thankfully, the live cams are still up and running, giving isolated audiences across the globe a real-time view of their underwater environments, resident sharks, penguins, birds and jelly fish.

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Tentacles of jelly fish underwater

Image: screenshot from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s live jelly cam

Our personal favourite is the live stream of the sea nettle jellies, whose bodies expand and drift mesmerisingly through the water to a soundtrack of ambient music. We recommend tuning in daily (via YouTube) as a form of easy relaxation. If you’re looking for a more structured meditation, the aquarium also offers a variety of guided videos featuring the moon jellies, kelp forest and open sea.

Watch this space: our upcoming Summer Issue features an interview with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Executive Director and conservation legend Julie Packard

Find out more: montereybayaquarium.org

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mixed medium ink painting with beige and black ink
Abstract figure painting in pink and black

‘Autumn’ (2019), Chloe Ho
.
Chinese ink and acrylic on cloth

Hong Kong-based artist Chloe Ho revives ancient techniques of Chinese ink painting with a contemporary perspective. Following the opening of her solo exhibition at 3812 Gallery London, we spoke to the artist about her creative environment, blending mediums and artistic dialogues

Woman standing in front of an abstract artwork

Artist Chloe Ho

1. Tell us about the concept for your current show Unconfined Illumination?

Unconfined Illumination really is reflective in many ways. The show speaks to my art that expresses deeper truths about ourselves, culture, nature and the human condition. It refers to my unencumbered expression that serves to both engage, entice and create a dialogue with the viewer. It also is a personal illumination of my inspirations, artistic influences and the id. It illuminates my connection both with East and West, ancient and contemporary. It celebrates the light of artistic freedom and observation.

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2. What’s it like exhibiting to a London-based audience?

To me art is universal and inclusive, a sort of common language that transcends time and place. I create my art based on our place in the universe drawing on common connections, identities, experiences and the natural world. London viewers, like all true art lovers, have certainly been wonderfully receptive, engaged, communicative, knowledgable and insightful. I have greatly enjoyed exhibiting here.

3. Do you need a particular environment to create?

I primarily paint in Hong Kong where I have my studio. It’s the most wonderful space for me because it holds the shadows of work competed and promise of work to come. I have also painted in many places around the world from Beijing to California. I really believe the creative environment is an extension of the artist – the energy, the sensibility, the light, colours, chaos or order. Like a blank canvas, no matter where, it quickly fills with every aspect of the painting life and facilitates the art.

mixed medium ink painting with beige and black ink

‘Lion Fish’, Chloe Ho. Chinese ink, coffee and acrylic ink on paper.

4. What made you decide to combine mediums such as ink and coffee?

To me, the combining of mediums better allows for unconfined expression. I am more able to create and express what I want to show in my images.

Of course, I always preserve the tradition of ink painting, but it is important to make my art a personal and contemporary expression of my aesthetic. For example, I chose coffee because it lent a certain modern energy and earthiness to my paintings, recalling in a modern way the elements of Shan Shui as in Lion Fish. While my ink flows, spray paint and acrylics gave me a more complex level of image such as In the Current. Even expression through technological manipulation of dimension from two dimensional paintings to sculptural pieces and VR are an interesting way to extend my images.

Read more: Richard Mille’s Alpine athletes Alexis Pinturault & Ester Ledecká

5. Some of your works seem to be directly responding to other artists, such as Tracey Emin and Pablo Picasso. Do you see your practice as a form of dialogue?

Yes, absolutely I think art is a dialogue between the viewers and the artist, the present and the past, the artist’s idea and reality. This is what makes art familiar yet new, inclusive, challenging, connected and connecting. The dialogue between art, artists and viewers is much like quasars – they bombard us – they emit massive amounts of energy and are integral to the expansion and merging of galaxies – of art. I am bombarded by the blues of Yves Klein, Picasso’s remarkable placement of line, the sheer bold and demanding quality of Tracy Emin, the abstract power and rolling colours of Pollock, the brilliant ink brush of Zhang Daqain to name a few.

Ink painting showing a figure in blue and black

‘In the Current I’, Chloe Ho. Chinese ink, coffee, spray paint, acrylic ink on paper.

6. What inspires you to start a new series?

I actually see my work as an ongoing image even within any series of paintings. Each of my works connects and continues my visual story in some way. As the subjects or presentation changes, it reflects my newly realised truths about life, about beauty, about art.

Unconfined Illumination includes two of my most recent Four Seasons Series on fabric: Summer and Autumn. I was inspired by the long tradition of painting on fabric, not only in ink, but throughout the history of art. Fabric is both painterly and sculptural. Its movement creates new angles and dimensions and adds a tactile dimension to the art. It flows visually and envelops the viewer because of its very nature. The women’s figures and colour choices were part of my continuing artistic dialogue about changing psychology, physiology and nature. The transitions of the seasons reflect the blooming and fading on a macro and personal level.

‘Unconfined Illumination’ by Chloe Ho runs until 15 November 2019 at 3812 Gallery London. For more information visit: 3812gallery.com

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Reading time: 4 min
Grand university building and lawn
Grand university building and lawn

California Tech University (Caltech), where Kevin Xu has endowed the new Neurotechnology Center, due to open next year

As a business leader, scientist, activist, media owner and philanthropist, Kevin Xu is the embodiment of a Renaissance entrepreneur. Andrew Saunders delves into the businessman’s master plan
Man leaning against a hotel chair in a suit

Kevin Xu

He may not quite be a household name – at least, not yet – but the chair of the MEBO group of regenerative wound care businesses, Kevin Xu, is a force to be reckoned with in the many spheres of his interest all the same. International entrepreneur and mentor; scientist, academic and researcher; advocate for better commercial relations and greater mutual understanding between the US and China; media owner; committed global philanthropist recognised with an Empact 100 award from the UN.

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As if that wasn’t enough, Xu also manages to fit in being a contributor to leading business titles including Forbes, Wired, Inc and Business Insider. No wonder he says wistfully that he doesn’t get much time to keep up with the fortunes of his favourite basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks, these days.

It’s an eclectic and impressive line-up of interests for a man whose ‘day job’ is running one of China’s leading biomedical therapeutics businesses, burns treatment specialist MEBO International. But the thread that unites his diverse activities is his personal credo: if you help someone, they will help others in their turn. “I believe in reciprocity and leadership,” he tells me. “I believe that if I can help an individual to lead a different life, then that person may reciprocate back to society when they become a success themselves. That’s why my interests are wide-ranging and don’t have any restrictions – not ethnicity, region, social status or gender bias. It’s all about individuals who I can help and make a difference.”

To aid him in that quest he also possesses two other valuable assets: a packed international diary and a 24-carat contacts list. He was born and raised in California, but we meet in London – he came for Royal Ascot, but also for meetings with charities and NGOs he’s interested in – before he headed to Japan for that country’s first-ever G20 summit. He’s on the advisory board of the California-China Trade Office, serves on the Asian Advisory Board at the University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology, mentors young entrepreneurs at MIT, is the founder of the Kevin Xu Initiative at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago and has endowed a new Neurotechnology Center in California Institute of Technology. The list goes on.

Perhaps the relationships he is most proud of, however, are his ties to two former US presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. He’s a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and a contributor to the Obama Foundation, and recently spent a fortnight with Clinton in the US Virgin Islands, working with the 42nd president of the United States in connection with its efforts to help rebuild the region after the devastating 2017 hurricanes.

President Bill Clinton with Hillary and another man

Kevin Xu (pictured with Bill and Hillary Clinton here), is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative.

His view is that great world leaders all share a concern for humanity – and human life – above all. “True leadership involves a value system that puts people’s lives first. Clinton and Obama have that humanitarian aspect and so have other world leaders I have met – people like Pope Francis and [former UN secretary general] Ban Ki-Moon.”

Xu’s connection with the two former presidents was forged in the aftermath of the traumatic death of his father, MEBO founder Dr Rongxiang Xu, in 2015. “It was an accident – an awful shock,” he says. “It was a moment when I realised the power of mentorship. Presidents Obama and Clinton stepped up and carried me through that time – they sent condolence letters and said they would be role models to teach me how to carry on good leadership.”

At the age of 27, Xu not only had to cope with the loss of his father, but also with being parachuted into the pilot seat of the business that Dr Xu had built and run for 30 years. “My biggest fears when my father passed away were firstly that I didn’t know how to run his business in China, and secondly that I didn’t know how to create connections with people there. I grew up in the US, I didn’t know anything about China.”

Read more: Louis Roederer’s CEO Frédéric Rouzaud on art and hospitality

The business was well established in China, where Dr Xu first developed his pioneering moist environment burns therapy (MEBT) in the 1980s. Based on traditional Chinese medicine, the therapy capitalises on the human body’s innate ability to regenerate its own tissues, in a carefully controlled environment. Even deep-tissue, third-degree burns can be successfully treated without the need for painful or disfiguring skin grafts, says Xu. “My father decided to become a burns surgeon because he realised that burns are the most painful conditions people ever face – both pain from the burn and pain from the treatment.”

By the time Xu took over, the business had trained almost a million doctors in the use of its therapy, and had a network of 65,000 hospitals in China alone. Picking up the reins was quite a responsibility.

Barack Obama shaking hands with a businessman

Xu works with former US president Barack Obama

When President Obama invited Xu to stay with him and be part of the official delegation for the US state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015, doors were opened that might otherwise have remained closed to him for years. “Obama helped me to make a whole new group of connections between the US and China that are different from those of my father’s era. I met President Xi almost every day.”

That meeting led to MEBO being selected as one of the Chinese government’s official partners on the UN’s Every Woman Every Child initiative, providing medical experts to help deliver the global programme for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health in many countries. As Xu explains, there were ten such official Chinese partners, and nine of them were already chosen by the time he and President Xi met. “I believe in serendipity, and that happened serendipitously. President Xi decided to have MEBO as number ten.”

His network of A-grade connections is also helping to bring the MEBO burns treatment to the US, via California-based company Skingenix, of which he is also CEO. The road to approval is not an easy one; when the process began in the early 2000s, the FDA regulator didn’t even have a category for treatments based on Chinese medicine. Thanks to the new regulations implemented under the administration of another former president, George Bush Jr, it does now – the category of ‘botanic drugs’ – and the approval process is ongoing.

Read more: Travelling beyond the beaten track with Geoffrey Kent

What have his experiences taught him about fostering better understanding between China and the US? “It’s like the psychology of dating – the US way of dating and the Chinese way of dating show exactly how they each do business,” he suggests. “If a Chinese person takes you seriously and wants to marry you, they will take things slowly, because they want to get to know you. If a US person wants to marry you, you are more likely to get into a fight early in the romance – they are more willing to say something that might hurt you, because they care about you.”

They are two ways of achieving the same goal he says, the main difference in both love and business being that the Chinese approach involves taking a long view. “Eastern people think further ahead, but they don’t always state their full intention at the start. They use connotations to imply it, and that can cause misunderstandings with western people.”

People having a meeting around a table

Xu leads a mentoring meeting at the University of California, Berkeley

Another leadership challenge Xu has faced is the fact that many of the experienced executives who help him run MEBO are from his father’s era, and are considerably older than their current boss. “My key advice to young entrepreneurs running a company with older people is not to take your youth as an advantage, but a disadvantage. Be humble and learn what they are thinking. Treat them like your parents, people with more experience than you.”

And what of his co-ownership of Californian media outlet LA Weekly, which he acquired in 2017 alongside several other local investors? Where does this fit into the plan? “I bought it because I understand the importance of media. I love the city where I grew up, but there is too much focus on entertainment, movies and gossip. There is also a more humanitarian side to the city, it just needs bringing out. If I want to change the way people think, I must change the media. Since I bought it, it has become more focused on philanthropy and the arts – a channel for distributing positive energies to people.”

So once again, it may look random from the outside but it’s all part of his plan. What’s the ultimate aim? “I have two goals. My goal for MEBO is that the technology should be available in every country, so that when the world needs us, we will be there. My personal vision is that I want to create a new balance between peace, stability and the self. I want to use science and a new way of thinking to regenerate the world, just as MEBO regenerates the body.”

You heard it here first.

Management by horoscope

Cover of LA weekly magazineEast also meets West in one of Xu’s more unusual leadership techniques – using astrology to recruit the right people. “I like horoscopes because I studied neuroscience, and my favourite part of history is Greek mythology. In the company, I know the horoscope signs for most of my people and I place them according to their strengths. Scorpios are more meticulous, for example, so they are suited to finance work, whereas Leos and Aries are more outspoken – it is easier for them to develop new markets.” What does his own star sign indicate? “I am Libra – that’s why I like balance,” he says.

Find out more about the MEBO group: mebo.com

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Reading time: 8 min
Render of birdseye view of a harbour from the top of a building
Luxurious estate home in the Italian countryside

Italy retains its place as one of the most desirable second home destinations in the world, says Andrew Hay. This property, Le Bandite is located in Umbria with easy access to Rome

Portrait of a man in a suit

Lord Andrew Hay

Lord Andrew Hay is Global Head of Residential at Knight Frank, the international real estate consultancy, and has built up property portfolios for some of the wealthiest people in the world. In a new regular column, he is handed a theoretical sum of money by LUX and asked how he would invest it. We kick off by handing Lord Hay £100m and requesting a global residential property investment portfolio

When LUX’s Editor-in-Chief generously offered me the opportunity to “invest” £100m into property, I was unsurprisingly delighted to accept. I have had free rein on where and what I buy, but have decided to invest with both my head and my heart. The reason being – I want to enjoy the properties I purchase but also have a clear focus on investment returns.

With this in mind, I have divided my allocation into equal thirds, between high-end luxury residential property, residential investments with a focus on capital growth and rental returns and investment into student property and senior living. The final 10% I would invest into an agricultural portfolio.

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I have to start in London. Often the best investment strategy involves an understanding of which markets are the least fashionable at the moment – and with Brexit and tax hikes London has been underperforming in recent years.

With few London neighbourhoods having a global brand as strong as Chelsea’s, I firmly believe that Chelsea is the perfect example of an area that has been underperforming and which is now ripe for reassessment.

Prices here have fallen 20% since late 2014, compared with a 12% fall across the wider prime London market. While new-build property in this category achieves a premium, established property trades at between £1,200 and £1,800 per sq ft. With many properties now edging below £1,000 per sq ft, Chelsea is back in the spotlight and cheaper than some less central and glamorous neighbourhoods.

Luxury interiors of a stately home

Interiors of a luxurious villa residence overlooking Lake Como

Yes, the area still lacks the connectivity of other prime neighbourhoods. However, with easy access to the river, unrivalled shopping on the King’s Road and Fulham Road and some of London’s best schools within walking distance – including the Lycée Charles de Gaulle and the London Oratory School – and the promise (or maybe hope) of a station on the future Crossrail 2 underground railway, Chelsea is set for rediscovery.

The next place I would invest is the other side of the world: New Zealand. New flights and rapidly increasing connectivity to Asia means the country is increasingly becoming a go-to destination. Auckland is the logical entry point and investment destination. One location in particular stands out to me – home to the 2021 America’s Cup, Wynyard Quarter is changing fast. Over the past decade, this waterfront precinct, once the heart of Auckland’s marine and petrochemical industries, has emerged as a major hub for national and international corporates, including Fonterra, Datacom, Microsoft and ASB Bank, as well as for the city’s innovation and co-working scenes.

Read more: Ruinart x Jonathan Anderson’s pop-up hotel in Notting Hill

Staying in Australasia, I have to include Sydney in my portfolio – a market that has seen a huge growth in investment over the past two decades from around the world. The city may be remote, but education has been a driving force in attracting Chinese purchasers. The one location I would target is One Barangaroo – Crown’s new development. One Barangaroo is one of the most beautiful developments in the world currently being built and is achieving record prices on the shores of Sydney Harbour overlooking the bridge and the Opera House. It has brought a new global standard of facilities and services to the city.

Luxurious interiors of a penthouse apartment

New York design firm Meyer Davis have crafted designed the interior layouts of residences at One Bangaroo

Render of birdseye view of a harbour from the top of a building

View down to the harbour from One Barangaroo, the latest residential development in Sydney

In Europe, Italy retains its place as one of the most desirable second home destinations in the world. The new flat tax initiative however has cast the country in a new light as a potential permanent base for the world’s wealthy. Italy is certainly worth a closer look. Property prices in many Italian prime markets declined 40% in peak-to-trough terms following the financial crisis, interest rates remain at record lows and the country is better connected than ever before.

In the US, the West Coast is of especial interest to me, the combination of lifestyle and economic dynamism here is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. One area which appeals to me is Pasadena. Home to the Rose Bowl stadium, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena offers an attractive combination of relative value compared with neighbouring communities in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, and the desirable lifestyle and privacy that residents of Los Angeles seek. The neighbourhood is easily accessible, with a light rail line that puts it within 15-20 minutes of Downtown Los Angeles.

Read more: Kuwait’s ASCC launches visual arts programme in Venice

In terms of growth areas I would point to student accommodation and retirement. Student in particular is counter cyclical (i.e. typically more students in a recession). Participation in tertiary education globally is increasing – OECD predict 8 million internationally mobile students by 2025 (up from 5m today). Markets remain structurally undersupplied. In terms of where Sydney looks good it has a big student population and low pipeline due to shortage of development land. In terms of development, I like big European cities like Barcelona, Lisbon and Paris. European markets comprise with very little existing organised supply. Europe is new front for portfolio development, scale building and brand.

At the opposite end of the age scale is senior living where the market is undergoing rapid growth, underpinned by demographic shifts that are increasing demand for a wider array of specialist housing to suit the changing needs of older purchasers. London and the South East, Bristol and Edinburgh are key UK senior living markets. Globally, America, Canada and Australia are at the forefront of investment.

Finally I would invest in farmland. Choosing where to invest in agricultural land depends very much on your appetite for risk but the world faces both a water shortage and food shortage by 2040 and 2050 respectively and therefore, investors looking at long-term food security are well advised to invest in agricultural land. With the world’s fastest growing population, Africa offers some very exciting opportunities. Zambia, for example, provides a good balance of relative political stability and established infrastructure. The Asia-pacific region is seeing a huge growth in wealth and rain-fed farms on the east coast of Australia are well placed to take advantage of this market.

And, that’s my £100m invested.

Find out more: knightfrank.co.uk

Knight Frank’ Wealth Report directs ultra-high-net-worth individuals on where to invest in property and reflect $3 trillion of private client investment into real estate annually. The countries that have been most robust and performed best over the last decade have been those where there is a steady political and economic situation as well as transparent rule of law, high quality living and first class education. The above portfolio choice reflects this.

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Reading time: 6 min
Artist Betye Saar pictured in her studio
Artist Betye Saar pictured in her studio

In September 2018, the GRI acquired the archive of artist Betye Saar (pictured here)

As Frieze Los Angeles highlights West Coast art, Andrew Perchuk and Kellie Jones of LA’s Getty Research Institute introduce the new African American Art History Initiative and its place in the telling of California’s black art history

DEUTSCHE BANK WEALTH MANAGEMENT x LUX

Illustration of man and woman in black and white

Andrew Perchuk and Kellie Jones

In the fall of 2018, the Getty Research Institute (GRI) announced the establishment of the African American Art History Initiative (AAAHI), an innovative nationwide research program focusing on the rich postwar art and cultural legacy of African American artists. In 2019, as Frieze LA draws an international audience to experience the thriving contemporary art scene in Los Angeles, the GRI demonstrates its longstanding commitment to the city and its vibrant artistic history. The AAAHI will entail concerted efforts in the acquisition of archival material, the support of scholars and researchers, research projects that will culminate in exhibitions and publications, an extensive oral history program, and the dissemination of materials and findings on digital platforms.

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The AAAHI continues research efforts initiated by the Getty Research Institute and the Getty Foundation, particularly ‘Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980’, which brought together 60 cultural institutions across Southern California for six months from 2011 to 2012 to draw attention to the many unique and diverse artistic histories, among them the numerous African American artists, curators, and gallerists active in the region after 1945. For instance, the California African American Museum’s exhibition for ‘Pacific Standard Time’, titled ‘Places of Validation, Art and Progression’, documented the history, beginning in 1940, and forces that made opportunities possible for African American artists in the LA art scene. Meanwhile, the Hammer’s ‘Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960–1980’, is today recognized as a landmark exhibition that chronicled this historically under-researched area of American art and brought new attention to the work of artists such as Mel Edwards, Maren Hassinger, and Senga Nengudi.

As those exhibitions demonstrated, postwar Los Angeles was an important site of creativity for African American artists who migrated west in search of a modern future. Foundational artists such as Charles White paved the way for David Hammons, John Outterbridge, Don Concholar and Betye Saar. Through traditional media as well as avant-garde practices of assemblage, installation, and performance, these artists fundamentally changed the cultural landscape of Southern California and beyond. Individuals such as Samella Lewis, Cecil Ferguson and the brothers Alonzo Davis and Dale Brockman Davis championed the works of African American artists by developing gallery and museum networks, and were integral in sharing and publicizing the works’ significance with the larger artistic community. The AAAHI will supplement such past projects, and reach beyond the artistic landscape of Southern California, to acquire archives and oral histories, and support scholarship that will document these histories.

Read more: BASTIAN gallery director Aeneas Bastian on the global art world

The GRI has a small but growing collection of material from artists such as Kerry James Marshall, Lorna Simpson and Kara Walker, and September 2018 acquired its first major archive in relation to the African American Art History Initiative, the archive of Betye Saar. Over a period of 50 years, Saar, a pioneering artist and major figure in the postwar art scene in Los Angeles, has produced assemblages, installations and public art works that are conceptually and materially grounded in the African American and African diasporic experiences. Archives play a central role at the GRI, and Saar’s archive is a cornerstone of the African American Art History Initiative. Sharing such acquisitions digitally, the GRI intends to enhance the visibility of works of art and cultural contributions by African Americans and to become a significant site of scholarship for African American art and culture.

The Getty does not launch the AAAHI alone. Its collaborative endeavor aims to enhance the visibility of and scholarly attention paid to African American artists and build on the substantial foundation that other institutions and individuals have contributed to this crucial history. Our initial partners include the California African American Museum and Art+Practice locally, and The Studio Museum in Harlem and Spelman College nationally. The AAAHI’s growing advisory committee of leading scholars, artists and curators – which includes Andrea Barnwell Brownlee of Spelman College, Richard J. Powell of Duke University, Bridget R. Cooks of UC Irvine, and Mark Godfrey of Tate Modern – will help shape the GRI’s collecting strategies and evaluate how we can best serve the field. Complementing institutions such as the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, the GRI will make a distinct contribution as a research center for African American art of the postwar period. Further, the GRI will partner with historically black colleges and universities to maximize the research potential of its digital archives, increase scholarly access, and create a larger community. As the artist Noah Purifoy wrote in the late 1960s, “art is of little or no value if in its relatedness it does not effect change.”

Andrew Perchuk is Acting Director of the Getty Research Institute and Kellie Jones is Senior Consultant for the African American Art History Initiative at the Getty Research Institute and Professor of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University

This article was first published in the Winter 19 issue

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Reading time: 4 min
Street art painting by Los Angeles based artist Alec Monopoly depicting TAG Heuer's CEO Jean-Claude Biver
Street artist Alec Monopoly wearing hat and scarf covering half of his face

The artist in his signature (dis)guise in Hong Kong

Street artist Alec Monopoly’s distinctive creations are a blend of subversive graffiti culture and post-pop colour. And he has now been tasked with rejuvenating the culture at watch brand TAG Heuer. Nathalie Breitschwerdt catches up with the elusive – and anonymous – LA-based graffiti genius.

The manufacture of luxury watch brand TAG Heuer consists of a series of modern buildings on the edge of La Chaux-de-Fonds, in western Switzerland. The town is built on a US-style grid system, seemingly at odds with the rolling forested hills of the Jura that surround it.

Inside, it’s as you would expect a high-end watch factory to be. A sanitized workshop floor contains rows of technicians piecing together different watch components; other rooms contain test laboratories and machines for finishing the timepieces.

Walk from the workshop through some connecting corridors to the corporate offices, however, and you are greeted with an extraordinary sight. It is a glass-walled room with paints, canvases and strikingly colourful artworks, finished and in progress.

There was no artist at work on the day we visited – he was back in his home city of New York – but Alec Monopoly is no ordinary artist in-residence. Not long ago, his art was illegal. A graffiti artist, his trade involved tagging (painting) buildings – other people’s buildings – with his distinctive design. Monopoly developed a cult following on Instagram, and was then discovered by pioneering, maverick watch CEO Jean-Claude Biver. A key player in the revival of the luxury watch industry and now head of the LVMH watch division (which includes TAG Heuer), Biver made Monopoly a brand ambassador, launching the partnership at Art Basel Miami. Explaining why the artist would be given his own studio up in the Swiss mountains, Biver explained that Monopoly would play a key role in updating the brand for the new generation. “The most important thing is that Alec will be our art provocateur,” Biver said. “He will bring his influence inside the company. He will infuse the culture of TAG Heuer. That is the real job.”

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Monopoly’s real identity is still a secret: he hides his face behind a red bandana. But his post-Roy Lichtenstein takes on pop culture characters (and specifically the banker from the Monopoly board game) give him a universal and instantly recognisable appeal – as does his nuanced take on the world’s economic system.

Monopoly’s artworks are now appearing in TAG Heuer stores around the world, and he is more likely to be courted than taken to court by the property world now.

Street art painting by Los Angeles based artist Alec Monopoly depicting TAG Heuer's CEO Jean-Claude Biver

Alec Monopoly’s depiction of TAG Heuer ’s CEO Jean-Claude Biver at Art Basel Miami

LUX: When did you start making street art?
Alec Monopoly: I have been painting on the streets of New York since I was 12 years old. Growing up in the city, I loved skateboarding and the graffiti culture in the city. In 2008, I moved to Los Angeles and that’s when I started integrating my artwork into street art. I was a graffiti artist before and that’s when I became a street artist.

LUX: How has the perception of street art changed since you first started?
Alec Monopoly: It’s changed big time. It’s become more accepted into pop culture recently, whereas before it was much more frowned upon. In the early days especially, graffiti was looked on as pollution and destruction, but now it’s transforming the grey walls of cities into things of beauty. If you look at the Miami Design District and Wynwood, it’s changed a dangerous neighbourhood with abandoned buildings and actually turned it into something beautiful. Take a look at the Wynwood Walls where some of the best artists in the world come to paint; it’s a great example of how street art has been accepted into society.

Read more: Megan Balch & Jaime Barker, Founders of Flagpole on their inspirations and creative process

LUX: Tell us about your fascination with the Monopoly Man.
Alec Monopoly: I started painting the Monopoly Man in 2008 when the economy started to dip. I was playing the game Monopoly, which I love, and was watching the news where I saw Bernie Madoff being arrested. I remember thinking how ironic that situation was, as he sort of looked like the Monopoly Man. There was so much meaning to it. People really connect with the Monopoly Man, so that’s when I started painting him for fun in the street. Originally it was for fun, but it also became more real due to the situation. That’s when I started spreading more intricate characters into my paintings, like Robert De Niro, Twiggy and Jack Nicholson.

Large scale mural by Alec Monopoly on the side of a building in Miami's design district

An Alec Monopoly creation in Miami’s Design District

LUX: Why do you think your artwork is in such high demand?
Alec Monopoly: People can really connect with my work. I create a lot of work that has a positive message; it’s fun and brings happiness to people. A lot of people have found that my work is inspirational. Having the Monopoly Man with bags of money and seeing him run with them, it’s kind of like a good luck charm, which you see in the offices of CEOs. Now, I draw a lot of inspiration from life: travelling, meeting new people, experiencing new things. I truly live through my artwork and express who I am as a character, as a person, through my paintings. I think it’s important for an artist to express themselves through their work in a way where people can see life through their eyes – my eyes.

LUX: Are there certain places in the world that are “street art hubs”?
Alec Monopoly: I would say there are different cities where street art is more popular. Berlin would be one of the top cities for emerging street artists and for street art in general because it’s more accepted into the culture there. I would say LA is great due to the massive walls throughout the city and then, of course, Miami Wynwood is the Mecca of street art, for now.

Street artist Alec Monopoly painting TAG Heuer onto wall

Alec Monopoly tags for TAG at a pop-up store in California

LUX: You’re a brand ambassador for TAG Heuer. How did that come about?
Alec Monopoly: It came about through an organic relationship with Mr Biver. We met in the south of France in my studio and created a relationship. I was really taken aback by him – he’s a genius. He’s like the Steve Jobs of the watch industry. Hearing him talk and his passion, we really connected as I have a great passion for watches myself. My dream has always been to create a watch with my artwork in the dial. We really saw eye to eye with the collaboration and it’s been an amazing journey for both of us. All the watches sold out immediately!

LUX: Is it strange for a street artist to be associated with a luxury brand or do you see it as a step in the right direction?
Alec Monopoly: I definitely think it’s a step in a positive direction. I’m very picky who I do brand collaborations with, but I think TAG is the perfect fit. It’s the perfect vehicle to pursue one of my dreams, which was to put my art inside a watch. I was very happy to do it.

Read more: Luxury in the treetops at Chewton Glen

LUX: Anonymity and graffiti seem to go hand-in-hand for street artists such as Banksy and yourself. Why is that important to you?
Alec Monopoly: For me, it represents the freedom to keep painting in the streets where I would like to paint. I paint in some places where it’s kind of a grey area with regards to the law, so it’s important to remain anonymous. It’s kind of fun too; I can take my hat, my mask and my jewellery off and no one really knows who I am – it’s kind of nice to have that double life. It’s very interesting that when I cover my face people recognise me and when I don’t, people have no idea who I am. It’s the weirdest thing!

LUX: How do you define art and its purpose?
Alec Monopoly: I see art as very important for culture. It’s a way of seeing what’s going on in that part of history and what’s going on in the world. For me, it’s a form of therapy and expression, but it also brings happiness to other people’s lives. When I’m painting one of these graffiti walls, I’m transforming that neighbourhood through bright colours. People driving by, kids growing up there – I try to bring them as much happiness as possible. I’ve met kids who started painting their own versions of the wall and creating their own art, which is really inspirational to me.

LUX: What do you do when not making art?
Alec Monopoly: Honestly, I’m always creating art. Yesterday I was at the beach and started making these drawings in the sand – I can’t even relax when I’m at the beach! I love art, it’s who I am.

View Alec Monopoly’s portfolio of work at alecmonopoly.com and Tag Heuer’s collections at tagheuer.com

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Reading time: 8 min
Tin boxes of shortbread from superchef Thomas Keller's restaurant
Chef Thomas Keller pictured in the grounds of his famous Napa restaurant The French Laundry

Thomas Keller at pictured at his Napa restaurant, The French Laundry. Image by Deborah Jones

Ever since legendary chef Thomas Keller opened his restaurant The French Laundry in California’s Napa Valley more than twenty years ago, he has been inspiring diners – and chefs – with his forward-thinking food. Keller tells Emma Love about his latest plans for fine dining without the fuss

Three years ago, American chef Thomas Keller reached a milestone in his illustrious career. The French Laundry, the Napa Valley restaurant he opened in 1994 and which quickly garnered international acclaim as well as three Michelin stars, reached its 20th anniversary. Some might use an occasion such as that as an excuse for throwing a party but Keller decided to spend $10 million on completely re-designing the kitchen and restaurant grounds. “There is a time that comes in life to push the envelope and explore new methods to stay relevant,” he says, citing the new state-of-the-art kitchen equipment and the 15,000-bottle wine cellar as examples of the changes that were unveiled in April this year. “That quest for evolution and wanting to shake things up has always been part of my DNA.”

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This comes as no surprise: Keller is a chef who has spent years challenging the industry with his restaurants (as well as The French Laundry, he is also behind Michelin-starred outposts of Per Se and Bouchon) where his ‘law of diminishing returns’ philosophy of cooking means that tasting menus come with multiple tiny courses where ingredients are never repeated. “The less you have of something, the more you appreciate it,” he reasons sensibly. “For me, not repeating ingredients is a challenge. If you use corn more than once in a ten-course menu that’s kind of lame, don’t you think? There’s so much variety out there and so many vegetables, we don’t need to use something twice.”

His quest for evolution – and changing the way we think about food – seems to be at the heart of all his projects from his wine label Modicum, which is used as an educational tool for his sommeliers, to Finesse, the bi-annual magazine he publishes in place of a newsletter which focuses on themes he considers to be important, such as community and design. “Modicum was set up so the sommeliers could work with the winery to understand about harvesting, blending and the many different aspects that go into producing wine,” he explains. “With Finesse we are also trying to educate and inspire by giving people an insight into what we do and touching on those topics where we can tell stories. It’s another way of having an impact.”

renovated kitchens at the michelin-starred napa restaurant the french laundry owned by Thomas Keller

The new kitchens at The French Laundry. Image by Michael Grimm

Then there’s Cup4Cup, which he began in 2010 in collaboration with his then research and development chef at The French Laundry, Lena Kwak. Initially offering a gluten-free flour blend which is a substitute for all-purpose flour, more recent products in the range (which is sold at Whole Foods in the US) include mixes for pizza, waffles and pie crusts. “I never thought I would produce flour,” says Keller. “When Lena started, her first task was to come up with a recipe for our signature salmon cornets. It’s the way people begin their meal at The French Laundry and they are iconic but the problem was that anyone who is food intolerant couldn’t eat them. We thought it was something that everyone should be able to enjoy so we created a gluten-free flour. The brilliance behind Cup4Cup is that you can literally replace a cup of regular flour with a cup of gluten-free flour and you can’t tell the cornets apart.”

Read next: Gucci’s Robert Triefus on how to create a sustainable fashion power house

Gluten free pie crust by Cup4Cup founded by thomas keller and lena kwak

Gluten free apple pie by Cup4Cup

As the Cup4Cup brand happened organically, so did his collaboration with friend and Italian olive oil producer Armando Manni, whose extra virgin olive oil is used at The French Laundry and Per Se. One day in 2010, the pair were in Keller’s Yountville backyard chatting about Manni’s idea for a chocolate bar made with olive oil (which preserves many of the natural antioxidants found in cocoa beans); Keller agreed to be his partner for the project on the spot. “Armando worked with the University of Florence and a laboratory in Paris on scientific trials to develop a new method that replaces cocoa butter with olive oil, but still retains the taste of chocolate,” recalls Keller. “At the eleventh hour, we realised that we couldn’t use a traditional factory because we required a fundamental change in the way the equipment was made.” Their solution? To modify the equipment and build their own factory, which added another two years to the development process. Finally, the K+M Extravirgin Chocolate bar launched in March.

Now he’s turning his attention to other projects, one of which is curating the restaurants at Hudson Yards, the largest retail, commercial and residential development in New York since the Rockefeller Center. “What we want is to create a community of neighbourhood restaurants. Not Michelin-star fine-dining necessarily, but places where you return again and again because you love their Dover sole or steak.” In other words, restaurants – such as Extebarri in Spain’s Basque country where he once ate what he described as “the most perfectly grilled sardine that I’ve ever had” – that create memories so people want to return. “If a chef executes a philosophy that gives you a positive, lasting memory, that’s what success is. That’s what we try and achieve at The French Laundry.”

thomaskeller.com

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Reading time: 4 min