Mission Attainable

Finding fine wine with Robert Bohr

IF YOU HEAR SOMEONE SAY, “They don’t make them that old anymore,” chances are you’re in the presence of people with a nose for fine wine.

Whether it’s on the auction block or in the fine wine market, any bottle (or case) can be had as long as you are willing to keep your eye on the prize. Fortunately, there are people who specialize in this high-stakes bounty hunt.

Enter sommelier Robert Bohr.

Bohr honed his sommelier skills alongside restaurateurs like Mario Batali and Danny Meyer – this, while attending New York University. The relationships he formed with clients and industry veterans still serve him today. He’s also a frequent visitor to our islands – much like my pal (and fellow master sommelier) Richard Betts, who reverently referred to Bohr’s organization of the wine program at Manhattan’s restaurant Cru as “God’s greatest wine list.”

Bohr is now the top wine guy at Tom Colicchio’s (yes, of Top Chef fame) Craft restaurant group, in addition to managing private collections for some of the country’s foremost oenophiles under his Grand Cru Wine Consulting. His forté lies in acquiring the world’s rarest and most expensive wines.

“It’s never about the money,” Bohr admits, noting that his clients aren’t in it to make a quick buck. “They are collecting and drinking. If someone asks me to get a bottle, the answer is always ‘yes.’ But they must be willing to wait.”

Some deals require a few phone calls; others span the globe and include a roster of familiar names, while others he is unwilling to divulge. There also are deals done on the auction floor, where Bohr bids both live and online for his select clientèle.

When asked about some highlights of his thriving career, he humbly mentions a case of 1959 Jayer Richebourg that he paid $212,000 for, setting a wine auction record. There also was the Jeroboam of 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild that he sold to a party at restaurant Cru. He chuckles when he recounts “the deal” he cut for the patron.

“It was listed at $60,000, but I told him he could have it for a cool $50K instead,” says Bohr, who remembers strolling across the street to the below-ground cellar, grabbing the wine and strolling back into the restaurant “as if I was delivering a pizza.”

Despite the downturn in the economy, Bohr sees no slowdown in the fine wine auction market. Demand from China and Hong Kong is exploding, commanding top prices for worthy vintages.

What, you might ask, does such a connoisseur look to add to his own collection? To both fledgling and seasoned drinkers, Bohr recommends the wines of Comte Liger Belair from Burgundy. He cites Italy’s Piedmont region – specifically Roberto Conterno’s new vineyards – as producing “something the world has not seen since the early 1970s.” More close to home, Bohr refers to the red wines from Bond in Napa Valley as “world class.”

Bohr has found that his Hawaii clients tend to seek out wines that also are in demand in Asia, as opposed to the nearer Californian trends – which is something I see quite often. Opus One is still a big draw, which carries similar status in Japan as Louis Vuitton or Mercedes Benz. Collectors here often ask me to find mature bottles of wine. They request wines from, say, 1982 in Bordeaux, 1971 in Burgundy and 1966 in Champagne.

Wondering what this hotshot in the wine world likes to drink when soaking up the tropical climes?

“In general I like lower alcohol, fruity wines – except for Chablis, which is more for the seafood I eat. Not very oaky wine that appreciates a little chill to temper the sun that is so abundant near the equator,” says Bohr. “I drink a bunch of Kabinetts (Prum, Donnhoff and Egon Mueller), Chablis (the obvious two – Raveneau and Dauvissat with some small growers like Mothe and Savary), Bourgogne Rouge (mostly Roumier with a few bottles of Barthod in the mix) and Cru Beaujolais (Lapierre Morgon is a favorite).”

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier.

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