This winter saw its share of horrific natural disasters, from the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, to the devastating floods in Madeira. Tens of thousands of Americans (and American companies) offered aid, and The Rare Wine Co. wanted to do its part.

We did it in a way that we felt was right for us: we co-hosted charity wine dinners in New York and San Francisco to aid victims of the Haiti earthquake and the Madeira floods.

We were happy to donate the wine, and Roberto Conterno was pleased to join us as our wine collaborator for the Haiti dinner in New York. But we needed to partner with great restaurants willing to absorb the entire cost of an unforgettable dining experience for 18 to 25 guests. Apart from the obvious expense of creating transcendent cuisine, they would have to devote not only their best private dining rooms for an evening but a substantial part of their staff. In other words, remarkable generosity was needed.

In deciding which restaurants to approach, two criteria were at the top of our list: great cuisine and great character. And it just so happened that the two restaurants we chose were as excited about the idea of doing something meaningful as we were.

For the Haiti benefit on March 15th, New York's Eleven Madison Park was a magnificent partner. General Manager Will Guidara, Chef Daniel Humm and Wine Director John Ragan pulled out the stops for a simply amazing evening. The cuisine was matched by the wine, a vertical comparison of Giacomo Conterno Barolo and Monfortino from 1958 to 1999, with 1937 Barolo Riserva to conclude. The dinner, which raised $21,000 for CHF International for rebuilding efforts in Haiti, was the subject of Eric Asimov's The Pour in The New York Times on April 7th, as well as his own blog on April 6th.

Coast to Coast

We held our benefit to aid victims of the Madeira floods just three nights later in San Francisco at one of our favorite restaurants anywhere: Giancarlo Paterlini's and Suzette Gresham-Tognetti's Acquerello. This wonderfully intimate restaurant, beloved by San Franciscans for Suzette's superb Northern Italian cuisine, crafted an inspired menu, and the staff provided incredible service. Our wines were exciting as well, pitting Raveneau against Dauvissat in 1996, Lopez de Heredia against Cune in 1976, and the greats of traditional Brunello in 1982.

On behalf of those who lost family and homes in Madeira in February, we are deeply grateful for Giancarlo's and Suzette's astonishing generosity to make this magical evening possible. The $9,000 raised went to support Caritas, the local equivalent to the Red Cross in Madeira, which has led efforts to give aid to the flood victims.

There are other meaningful contributions we would like to acknowledge: Reidel provided the massive amount of stemware needed for the Haiti Benefit; and Marco DeFreitas, Premium Port Wines, Pereira d'Oliveira and Vinhos Barbeito donated rare Madeiras for the Acquerello Dinner. And in addition to all those who made generous donations to attend the two dinners, a few friends and customers made special "above and beyond" donations, for which we are very grateful.

For the menu and wine pairings at the Haiti Benefit at Eleven Madison Park, click here.

For the menu and wine pairings at the Madeira Benefit at Acquerello, click here.

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