The Cellar Restaurant & Spirit Room in Fullerton is the first U.S. restaurant to be inducted into the Barons de Rothschild Ambassadors of Excellence Club.
The designation is bestowed on restaurants and wine merchants that meet standards of excellence in culinary and hospitality categories and that are deemed to have unique atmosphere and an outstanding wine program; designees also must carry Rothschild wines.
Other ambassadors include the Hotel Ritz Paris; Grand Hôtel Thalasso & Spa in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France; and Unique Hotel Innere Enge in Bern, Switzerland.
Based in Bordeaux, Barons de Rothschild Champagnes and wines are distributed in more than 80 countries. The Cellar’s sommelier Robert Barron, offers Rothschild selections on his 92-bottle list, and he said he is thrilled to be one of 17 restaurants chosen at the end of January. When he has vintage selections of Rothschild, they might be listed for thousands, but other offerings go for a more affordable $50 a bottle.
“You have to give support to the brand,” Barron said. “I’ve been told Michelinstarred restaurants have applied and were not chosen. Just because you have a $1,500 bottle on the list, you have to support it. They’d rather see the $60 bottle selling than see a museum piece sitting in the window. Rothschild has a mystique about it; they are very down-to-earth and very particular about what they want.”
It all started when the restaurant had a wine dinner that impressed the brand. “We did a Lafite-Rothschild dinner at The Cellar, and the local representative (Jean- Christophe Convert, the Rothschild portfolio director based in Chino Hills) sent back a glowing report that it was on the level with Michelin- starred restaurants,” he said. “That is what got the ball rolling.”
Diners were able to buy wines at the dinner, and sales were strong. The Cellar was invited to apply to be an ambassador, and Barron filled out questionnaires to email to Rothschild. Then Convert and Cedric Villars, the New-York based U.S. portfolio director for Rothschild, returned for an unannounced visit to sample the cuisine.