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Q&A With Bob Wilmers of American Friends of the Center for Wine and Civilizations

by David Furer
July 16, 2013

The Center for Wine and Civilization/Cité des Civilisations du Vins celebrated the laying of a cornerstone at its Gironde-side building in Bordeaux during Vinexpo 2013. Launched at Vinexpo 2011, the center will highlight wine, wine civilizations, and winemaking techniques. The restaurant to be built as part of the center is developing a truly international wine list, one not necessarily steeped solely in the wines of its home country.

One attentive Bordeaux 'outsider' is Château Haut-Bailly's American owner, Bob Wilmers, who has set about organizing the nonprofit American Friends of the Center for Wine and Civilizations for those wishing to provide financial assistance for the development the Bordeaux center. Wine Business Monthly conducted a Q&A with him about this U.S. involvement with a decidedly French project.

How is it being organized?

The American Friends of the Center for Wine and Civilizations organization will be a 501(c)(3) status nonprofit organization. In addition to me, there are two other board members: George Sape and Nicolas Gailly. George is a partner in the law firm Epstein Becker and Green and a former grand master of the Commanderie de New York. We are both American wine lovers. Nicolas Gailly is member of the board of administration of the French fonds de dotation (endowment funds) for the Cité. Nicolas will make the link and guarantee coherence and complementarity between the French and the American initiatives. The organization is currently recruiting an executive director to start by the end of 2013.

What does involvement entail?

Involvement in this organization will allow Americans with a passion for the cultural dimension of wine an opportunity to provide financial support for the construction of the Cité des Civilisations du Vin. The mission of the American Friends of the Center for Wine and Civilization will be to promote the Cité des Civilisations du Vin across the Atlantic and to play a role in stimulating knowledge about the culture of wine.

A large part of involvement in this organization includes providing funding for the development of the Cité, but not only that. Above all, our role is to spread the word about the culture of wine in Bordeaux. We usually present our wines from Château Haut-Bailly across the world. Here, we have the opportunity to invite the world to come and visit the birthplace of the most prestigious Grands Crus. It is very exciting and something I truly enjoy.

How will its activities coincide with those of the Bordeaux operation?

The organization exists as a support for the development of the Cité focusing on the key developments of the Cité and find sponsors. The French members of the association, like Nicolas Gailly and the future executive director, will ensure that the U.S. and Bordeaux operations are complementary.

Will the U.S. support network stage any activities in the U.S.?

This is still being discussed and the strategy for the foundation should be decided during the second half of 2013 to define actions for 2014. Of course we will have projects such as organizing dinners and wine auctions in order to gather wine lovers in the main cities of the United States and inform them about the project.

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