Wine Cellar

~ Why a Cellar? ~

Anthony Dias Blue was an accomplished figure in the world of wine.   It’s odd for me to write this tribute to a man I never met and only spoke to once.   Yet unknowingly, he may be the single biggest infleunce that launched my wine career.  To quote a friend,  The story goes like this…..


I was 13 years old and had been dropped off at a friend’s house for a small gathering.  It wasn’t a party per se, but a “get to know you” meeting for the incoming middle school class of drummers.  Truthfully, I wasn’t keen on going.  But, I suppose it was a seminal moment in my life because that night, I met a life long friend who I still see frequently.  And, I discovered Bon Appetit Magazine.

~ Carl Palmer is a favorite of mine ~

Bear with me.  My friend’s Mom subscribed to Bon Appetit and there was a cover story about Classic Neapolitan Recipes in the current issue.  Since my friend’s Mom was going to toss the magazine, I was able to take it for my Neapolitan Mother thinking she might be interested in it.

Fast forward several years.  I was about 24 years old with a fledgling interest in wine.  Back then I had 6 bottles in a rack on the kitchen counter.  If I had to guess now,  I’ll bet one was a Pinot Grigio, 3 were White Zindandel, one was a Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva and one was a Chilean Cabernet.  I remember I had just missed the release of the 1990 Tuscan vintage en masse. Some stragglers were available in the market, but you had to search.  It would be several years before the next great vintage.


On a trip to the local grocery store, I came across a Bon Appetit magazine.  All those years later, I remembered that long ago night meeting the drum corp.  The cover story this time was about a Tour of Italy’s Regional Cuisines.  That got me to buy the issue.  But then I met Mr. Blue.

Anthony Dias Blue

~ Anthony Dias Blue passed away peacefully on December 25th. He was 82 ~

There was a column in the magazine penned by Blue.  I remember it vividly.  It was called “How and Why to Build a Wine Cellar.”  The basic premise of the article was keeping a few different types of wines on hand – a “starter case” is what he called it.  This would feature 1-2 sparkling wines, 2-3 still whites and the balance to various reds.  Then his advice was this.  Instead of running ad hoc to the wine shop, calculate what you spend on wine in a given month, then go to the shop and spend double that amount.

It was like a light switch was thrown “on” inside of me.  A switch that has remained on to this day.  In spending double, he advised that you simply tally up what you drank in the course of a month and then go replenish what you’ve used.  In this way, you’ll never have less than one month’s worth of wine on hand.  He also provided some basic rules for aging certain wine types.

If he only knew what he was launching….

Within days, I had bought not double, but triple what I normally purchased.  Additionally, I had left over wood from a project (furring strips from a basement remodel) that I used to build a wine rack with a 46 bottle capacity.  I’ll never fill that up, I thought.  I think it was filled in under 6 months.  This was nothing.

Just Call me Blue

Within the column, there was contact information for Anthony Dias Blue.  But this was the days before email and the internet.  So I wrote him a letter thanking him for the inspiration and I provided him with a list of the wines in my cellar; asking for his opinion.  (I only remember two of them)   I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get a response. In fact, I expected not to. But about two weeks later, I had a letter.

Dear John,  thank you for your letter.  It’s exciting and rewarding for me to know that I’m inspiring a future generation of wine lovers.  You’re off to a good start with your cellar.  The stars are the Carpineto Brunello 1990 and the 1991 Cecchi Chianti Classico.  Drink that last one soonest.  Cheers to you!  AD Blue….


Anthony was a good teacher, and a patient one at that.  My letter contained at least a few naive questions that he obligingly answered.  I remember one specifically.  I had asked him what “Casa Fondata Nel” meant.  Now I look at that and laugh.  Yet, he translated it for me.  But this was nothing.

After about two more weeks, I was sitting at home when the phone rang.  Yes, of course it was Anthony Dias Blue.  He introduced himself and told me the reason for his call.  He was looking back at my letter and realized he missed one of my “wine stars”  – the 1990 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva – and he wanted to tell me about it.

He said if well stored, that will be a special wine.  I thanked him again for taking the time to respond and now again to call.  A gentleman and a patient teacher.

Anthony,  for no particular reason, I carried that 1990 Coltibuono around with me for another 7 or 8 years, through 2 house moves and abused the hell out of that bottle.  It had spent its early years on top of my fridge.  When I finally opened that bottle, I think it was 16 years old.  I wondered if it would still be good.  I thought of you and all you had told me.  And yes Sir, the wine was stellar.  I don’t remember where I was, who I was with or what I ate.  But I remember the wine and I remember you talking to me about it.

Tonight I will raise a glass to your memory.  I may even have a bottle of Coltibuono in my cellar.  And yes Anthony, it’s a bit bigger than 46 bottles.

Riposa in Pace Professore.

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