Wine auction raises funds for two exemplary causes

Around US$65,000 was raised in Cayman last month for two incredibly worthwhile causes. The Jacques Scott wine auction raised funds for the National Trust Blue Iguana Recovery Fund and the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman Culinary Arts Scholarship. The Journal reports.

The Ritz-Carlton’s Seven restaurant was packed to the gills mid January for a night of fine wine, food and the opportunity to acquire some real treasures of the wine world. The Jacques Scott charity auction dinner kicked off the Cayman Cook Out weekend, which attracted visitors from far and wide to the Ritz-Carlton’s heady schedule of wine and food events that saw the likes of Eric Ripert barbequing on Seven Mile Beach, Rachel Allen knocking up a curry under a breezy tent and Charlie Trotter, Eric Ripert and Jose Andres sous cheffing to amateur cooks in a dessert cook off, among many other events.

The wine auction at Seven has become an annual event that has to be marked in the calendar early on if you want to get the chance to purchase some top wines in their field.

The dinner

The dinner comprised of a five course selection produced by some of the Ritz-Carlton’s finest chefs. Executive Chef Frederic Morineau of The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman prepared a first course which showed incredible dexterity, presenting local wahoo five ways, including a wahoo crudo with roasted bread fruit and a key lime thyme salsa verde as well as a seared wahoo with a tamarind glaze and spiced mango (my preference – tangy and sweet at the same time.) A 2007 Mumm Johannisberger Mittelhölle Riesling from Germany was an excellent choice to balance out all the spicy flavours.

Next Executive Chef Jacques Sorci of The Ritz-Carlton Battery Park NYC produced some deliciously rich potato gnocchi with Chanterelles and a lobster sauce. A 2009 layer Cake Virgin Chardonnay was the sensible wine pairing, pairing rich with rich to full effect.

A Carolina flounder with sweet potato, smoked pecans, Vidalia onion and collard greens was deliciously prepared by Executive Chef Peter Zampaglione from The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead and served alongside a fruity 2006 Passopisciaro from Italy.

Mains was an impossible soft beef tenderloin with an equally impeccable braised short rib crisp, presented to table by Executive Chef Xavia Salomon from The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, while a heavy weight 2002 Fuentes Finca el Puig from Spain did a great job to match the meatiness of the dish.

An intensely fruity margarita sorbet with fresh tropical fruits and a lime and lemon custard tart rounded off the meal, prepared by Executive Pastry Chef Stephane Chéramy of The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Great Lakes. A lovely not too sweet 2004 Beringer Nightingale Botrytised Semillion/Sauvignon Blanc was a natural pair to the dish.

The auction

This year’s event was compared by the incomparable Vicki Wheaton, who kept everyone in check and entertained.

Vice President of Sotheby’s New York Eliza Osborne presided over the auction, which saw the likes of a jeroboam of Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne a magnum of Barolo Cannubi from Marchese di Barolo and a double magnum of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 go under Ms Osborne’s hammer.

In some cases items went above their estimate, for example a magnum of Mouton Rothschild 2005 fetched US$2,000 (US$1,800 estimate) and a double magnum Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Silver Oak Winery, California fetched US$900 (US$390 estimate).

A magnum of Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2006 together with a five night ocean view stay for two at the Marriott Kaua’i, Hawaii fetched US$4,000 (US$2770).

Three five-pound beef tenderloin lots paraded by three Ritz-Carlton chefs fetched between US$1100 and US$1600, with the chefs vowing to cook them for the winning bidders.

Not only were wines up for grabs, but some inventive wine and foodie lover packages to be enjoyed in Cayman as well as overseas were also hotly pursued by auction goers. On the local front these included a dinner for four at the Brasserie with wine pairing, two magnums of Mayacamas Chardonnay 2006 together with a Bon Vivant cooking class for six led by the winning amateur chef of Cayman Cook out and four bottles vertical Barolo La Villa (1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000) together with six seats for Blue Uncovered cooking class with Chef Luis Lujan in Blue Restaurant.

On the international front, a magnum of Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 from the Cuvaison winery plus a two night weekend stay for two at the Sheraton in New York City was also available, as well as a magnum of Merlot 2007 from the Frog’s Leap winery as well as a three night stay for two at the Chateau or Versailles Tower at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach. One of the highlight events, with an estimate of US$2,500 was a magnum of Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 from the Brandlin Winery together with a three night stay for two at The Ritz-Carlton Central Park in New York City as well as dinner for two plus wine pairing at Le Bernadin. This hotly contested lot eventually went to the lucky bidder for an incredible US$10,000.

The worthy causes

Both the Blue Iguana Recovery Fund and a lucky Ritz-Carlton scholarship recipient will benefit from the funds raised at the event.

“We are so grateful to Peter Dutton and Jacques Scott for allowing us to partner in the wine auction and sharing the proceeds for The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Culinary Scholarship,” said Vice President and General Manager Franz Ferschke. “In our efforts to recruit young Caymanians to work in our hotel, we’ve seen some tremendous passion and potential among aspiring chefs. It is important to us to offer these talented young people a chance for formal university culinary training so that they can return to Cayman and perpetuate its reputation as the emerging culinary capital of the Caribbean.”

Fred Burton, Director, Blue Iguana Recovery Programme explains that there is a long and wonderful history of Jacques Scott’s hosting events like this one to support conservation projects through the National Trust.

“This event has broken all their records by far!” he confirms. “It couldn’t have come at a better time for the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, since we are now in a year when we need to match a grant from the European Union and start developing access to our new protected area in East End. The evening came together perfectly, and the support from guests, donors to the auction, the auctioneer and the organisers can only be described as absolutely magnificent!”

Jacque Scott’s Managing Director Peter Dutton confirms: “We were thrilled with the result, and are very grateful to the successful bidders, to the donors of the auction lots, to Eliza Osborne who did a great job as auctioneer, and to the Ritz-Carlton for putting on a great show and produced a delicious dinner. Jacques Scott is proud to be able to be associated with Cayman Cookout, and pleased to again be able to support the National Trust.”