“Don’t leave me in here!” I hollered after Sudhir, Graycliff's Wine Cellar Manager, when he left the chamber to allow me to take a better photo and video of the cellar’s enchanting private dining room. I was inside a renowned wine cellar that was once a pirate’s dungeon 300 years ago.
The Graycliff Wine Cellar's private dining room table.
I had already been in there two weeks earlier, touring Nassau's prominent wine cellar that carries the 3rd largest wine collection in the world. But my intended hero shot – a unique angle of the opulent table in the private dining room – turned out blurry. I had to go back for a re-shoot.
With 275,000 bottles, this is wine heaven. Watch video at the end of this story.
So there I was, hobnobbing again with the 275,000 bottles of the finest wines, ports, cognacs, and armagnacs underneath the historic Graycliff, the first 5-star luxury hotel and restaurant in the Caribbean.
A stack of armagnacs (left) and a collection of ports (behind the green door)
It’s easy to lose your way inside the 5,500 square foot maze-like structure, but the wine bottles here are organized and compartmentalized by type. I followed Sudhir, weaving through the narrow hallways flanked by wine-filled shelves, ducking into low-ceiling areas and finally walking into a separate cavity with all the extravagant champagnes -- the symbol of luxury and celebrations.
One that stood out to me was a sophisticated bottle coated in gold and embossed with a distinctive insignia of the French monarchy, the l'as de pique or ace of spade. The luxury cuvee, Aces of Spade Champagne Armand de Brignac Brut, is produced using an artisanal method. Even the bottling and labeling is done by hand.
This golden bottle of bubbly is the
Aces of Spade Champagne Armand de Brignac Brut.
In another corner, I found resting in its special case, the limited deluxe 2000 millennium methuselah (a wine bottle eight times the standard size) of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne. Priced in the thousands, the champagne blend was made only once and released in 1999 for Millenium celebrations.
The deluxe 2000 millennium methuselah of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne, a limited edition specifically produced for Millenium celebrations.
I even met the oldest bottle of wine in the world here: the 1727 Rudesheimer Apostelwein from Bremen Ratskeller in the Rheingau region, one of Germany's reputable wine-growing regions. Graycliff owner Enrico Garzaroli (the visionary behind converting this underground into a wine cellar) purchased it at an auction house in 1968 to add to his valuable collection.
The oldest bottle of wine in the world rests here: 1727 Rudesheimer Apostelwein from Bremen Ratskeller
As we walked past a stockpile of dusty bottles, Sudhir explained that it is ideal to keep wines undisturbed. It is only when the wine has been ordered and ready to pour that the bottle is wiped down ever so gently.
At the far end, I saw cooling fans. Through regular monitoring, they maintain the ideal temperature and they have a back-up generator in case of a power outage.
Precious wines must be undisturbed and handled very gently.
The rugged concrete portal reveal remnants of the original dungeon.
Finally, we made our way to the esteemed private dining chamber. You just can't help but be captivated by its Old World-style setting. Sudhir confirmed that numerous celebrities have gathered around the regal table for extravagant candlelit banquets. Some have even spent up to $80,000 in one evening just from the rarest and finest wines, cognacs, and cigars alone. The exclusive private dining area, which can be rented for a $1,000 fee, has also been sought after for lavish wedding proposals. This is why I wanted to show what it was like to be sitting at that famous table.
The wine cellar's elaborate dining table can accommodate up to 18 guests.
Navigating through the wine cellar, Sudhir led me to another section where other items of special interest are stored. It's where they keep precious finds for guests who might be interested in purchasing such items for their own collection. A top shelf held figurines depicting Caribbean folk and lifestyles. Sitting among wine cases was a rare box crafted from a piece of wood salvaged from Christopher Columbus’ shipwreck.
A top shelf filled with figurines of Caribbean folk
A unique box crafted from wood that was salvaged
from Cristopher Columbus' shipwreck.
I browsed around and noticed what looked like two talking sticks leaning up against a rack. “What are those?” I pointed.
“They’re voodoo sticks,” Sudhir replied, “to keep away the bad spirits.” It's a Caribbean superstition, Haitian in origin. And why not? This place has been in existence for 3 centuries, after all.
Voodoo sticks help keep away the bad spirits.
“So have you had any encounters with spirits in here?” I was expecting him to tell me about a regular phantom while we walked back towards the main entrance, passing through the original concrete prison door.
The concrete door that was once part of the pirate's dungeon.
“Sometimes when I’m alone here and everything’s turned quiet, I would hear some murmurings," he replied nonchalantly. "But the spirits here are always good to me." I guess the only dominant spirits around here are of the alcohol kind.
Once I emerged from the cellar and was back in the daylight, I eagerly reviewed the private dining room shots. Again, all the photos and videos, taken from the typical angle you’d easily find online, came out fine. But the one shot – that important shot that I was after all along – once again turned out blurry. (Deep sigh!) Maybe I should have asked permission from the good spirits.
It's a blurry shot but you can still see the elaborate set-up
of the private dining room's grand table.
Sorry folks. You'll just have to go see it for yourselves. While the wine cellar tours are not necessarily open to the public, you will be given an exclusive tour if you dine at Graycliff's restaurant or book a Wine Luncheon or a Wine & Cheese Tasting there.
Sudhir Kangath originally hails from India and
has been Graycliff's Wine Cellar Manager for 11 years.
Here's a video to give you a better sense of the wine cellar.
Click here to read my previous post about exploring Graycliff. The Wine Cellar is only one of the many experiences offered by Graycliff and the neighboring Heritage Village. Learn more about Graycliff here.