WineInk: Here Kitty

The St. Regis Aspen’s most famous employee honored with his own bottling

Kelly J. Hayes

When a story comes along about a wine named for a dog named for a cat, I would normally delegate it to the “too cute for school” file. But as I have often petted said dog and am familiar with the pedigree of the winemaker, an exception must be made.

If you have been to the St. Regis Aspen Resort in the last couple of years you surely smiled when a Bernese Mountain dog named Kitty came trotting through the ultra-luxe lobby. Who can help but get all gooey in the company of the perpetually happy puppy with a furry white nose living large, greeting guests and, always … always, wagging his prodigious black tail. Such are his charms that he may well be the most photographed dog in all of Aspen and he has become a regular at The St. Regis’ traditional, celebrated champagne sabering ritual.

“He’s everyone’s favorite employee,” laughs Marty Johnson, director of restaurants and bars at the resort, which sits in the shadow of Shadow Mountain. And yet, Kitty has become more than just the house dog.

The precocious pup has grown into a role as a representative, an ambassador if you will, of the St. Regis. So it was only natural that when the property was looking to produce a signature wine they thought to name it after Kitty.

To honor him, The St. Regis has created a proprietary custom label Cabernet Sauvignon bottling in association with Blackbird Vineyards dubbed, naturally, the “Kitty Cabernet.”

“We wanted to have something that was special and unique to the hotel that we could offer guests,” says Johnson about the initiative. “We started with the idea of offering the wines as an amenity to special guests,” he continued. “But it has been so successful that we want to have the Kitty Cab available in our lounges and bars.”

Now that the community has gone down to Orange-level restrictions, the St. Regis is providing service under designated public health department regulations in the hotel’s Mountain Social Bar and Lounge, the Velvet Buck restaurant and the pop-up tents on the courtyard patio.

The Kitty Cabernet is made by an acclaimed winemaking team under Aaron Pott at the Blackbird winery in the Oak Knoll region of Napa Valley. The grapes for this approachable and easy to drink wine (14.5% abv) come from the 2017 vintage and are sourced, appropriately, from high mountain vineyards in the Red Hills AVA of Lake County, California. Soaring to 2,500 feet, very high in California winemaking terms (they received a coat of snow from the atmospheric river in January), the hills above Clear Lake are fast becoming favorites of producers who note the volcanic soils and elevation as favorable components in the mountain Cabernet Sauvignon that grows there.

While Pott is well known for making some of Napa’s best merlot-based wines for Blackbird, his repertoire includes a variety of high priced and in-demand cabernet bottlings as well, including limited production wines under his own Pott Wine label. As a winemaker and consultant, he has made wines for a who’s who of Napa Labels.

The winemaking journey began with Kitty taking a cross-country road trip to California to visit other St. Regis properties. A stop in Napa resulted in a gathering with Pott and his team at Blackbird to sniff out the wines.

“We loved working with the St. Regis Aspen, and of course Kitty, on this fun custom label,” said Jeanette LeFevre, marketing manager at Blackbird Vineyards. “Everyone at our winery was excited when Kitty came to visit and enjoyed watching him explore the winery in search for the perfect blend. A beautiful Lake County Cab paired with a beloved Bernese Mountain Dog — what more could you want?”

The Kitty Cab’s label features the original St. Regis crest with an illustration of a pair of cherubs, here replaced by a rendering of Kitty the Bernese.

Turns out this foray into a signature wine is in keeping with St Regis history. John Jacob Astor IV, who founded the original St. Regis in New York at 55th and Fifth in 1904, himself had a dog dubbed “Kitty.” Sadly, the Airdale was with Astor on that fateful April evening in 1912 when the last glass of wine was poured on the Titanic before it slipped beneath the sea.

Today, there are 46 St. Regis properties spread throughout the globe, but at just one, here in Aspen, can you get a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon named after a dog who is named after a cat. The Kitty Cabernet.

Aspen Times Weekly

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