As there are several Southerners among my family members, a fixation on origin is, to me, nothing new. Down South, "Where do you come from?" still trumps the question "What do you do?" Only the world of wine auctions seems to be more source-obsessed. "Provenance is everything" runs the favored phrase, repeated by every auction-goer and auction executive I know. Including Jeff Zacharia, whose family owns a big retail wine shop, Zachys, in a New York City suburb and a large auction business as well. Jeff's definition of provenance: "It's important to know whereand howa wine has been stored."
Jeff and I were talking about provenance in the context of an upcoming Zachys auction, one that Jeff said was "all about provenance." On offer were sixty vintages of the legendary Sauternes Château d'Yquem, from as far back as 1816. All of the wines had come straight from the estate's cellars, where they had been perfectly stored for many decadesthe ideal answer to any question about provenance.
Jeff invited me to the auction, which took place at Daniel, the four-star French restaurant on New York's Upper East Side. For only $50, auction attendees received Champagne and a buffet lunch that included chef Daniel Boulud's famed DB burger and fries. "Don't be late," Jeff had warned. Apparently the french fries disappear fast. (I pictured chef Boulud at the fryolator: "One more batch, but that's it.")