FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the Commanderie de Bordeaux?
The Commanderie de Bordeaux aux États-Unis d'Amérique, founded in 1957, is a worldwide organization of men and women who love, buy and drink the wines of Bordeaux. There are now more than 36 Commanderie chapters and around 1,300 members in the United States. It is also part of a worldwide network of 90 Commanderies in 28 countries under the overall patronage of the Bordeaux based Grand Conseil du Vin de Bordeaux.
The members (“Commandeurs”) of these chapters get together for dinners (called “parlements” from the French verb parler, to talk) and other events in order to enjoy, discuss and learn more about the wines of the various Bordeaux regions and their different vintages. Through their passion for these wines, the Commandeurs become emissaries of the Bordeaux winemakers. For additional information, please visit the Commanderie de Bordeaux National Website.
Who Founded the Aspen Chapter of the Commanderie?
Elliott Slade founded the Aspen Chapter of the Commanderie to establish a dining club in Aspen that promotes fine food and mature wines. He is a member of a number of food and wine societies and has been a long-term member and officer of the New York City chapter of the Commanderie. After moving to Aspen full time, Elliott assembled an intimate group of people that are fun to dine and converse with on a regular basis as Founding Members. Good friends who enjoy life!
What is the mission of the Aspen Commanderie?
To ever expand our love of the wines of Bordeaux and our appreciation of the vignerons. We will be guided by four main principles:
We are committed to building a Commanderie that sponsors exceptional experiences.
We are generous in sharing our cellars and our opinions on the great wines of Bordeaux wine culture of Bordeaux.
We act as ambassadors for the advancement, understanding and appreciation of the wines and wine culture of Bordeaux.
We value our intimacy and our size, but understand that our longevity and our success depend on actively recruiting others passionately dedicated to furthering these same goals.
How does one become a member?
We are committed to welcoming those who are generous of spirit, enthusiastic about Bordeaux and, most importantly, those who add to the great camaraderie to make this a treasured institution. Membership is open to both women and men.
The Commanderie attracts a diverse and talented membership of oenophiles. Many of our members have been enthusiastic advocates of Bordeaux wines for numerous years. Others have a passion for fine wine and great food and seek to learn more about Bordeaux wines. Prospective members typically share a love for Bordeaux wines before they pursue membership, which is by invitation only and after being co-sponsored by at least two members.
We started with a group of approximately 30 Founding Members to give us a critical mass while ensuring that the dinners are fully subscribed. It is expected that the some of the Founding Members will form an Admissions Committee to identify and qualify future members.
What is expected of members?
A person of character and good personality, adept at conversation, and an enjoyable dinner companion with whom other members would wish to dine and to experience and discuss the wines of Bordeaux.
A person with a passion for Bordeaux who has a general knowledge (or a willingness to learn) of the relevant aspects of Bordeaux.
A person with a personal wine cellar of, or a willingness to help us acquire, fully mature
Bordeaux wines that will be shared and at the quality and quantity level served at our various functions.
A person willing to fulfill the Membership Obligations of the Commanderie.
Commandeurs are expected to regularly attend Commanderie dinners, to actively support the programs and goals of the Commanderie.
Members are expected to co-host a Commanderie dinner within their first couple of years of membership (including donating mature wines at a quantity, quality and vintage levelappropriate to the dinner theme).
We welcome members who are willing to co-host a dinner at their home.
We ask each member to be active in supporting and recommending outstanding candidates.
Can spouses join?
Each person joins in their own right as a Commandeur. We anticipate that most dinners will be fully subscribed by active members. Spouses who are not members will be welcome if we are able to accommodate a few additional guests.
What is the cost of membership?
All chapters charge an initiation fee, an annual fee and an annual wine assessment.
There is a one-time Initiation Fee. Of this initial fee, part is paid by the Chapter to the National Organization for the regalia presented at induction, and the balance goes directly to our cellar stockage fund. Members will be assessed Annual Dues (part of which goes to the National Organization and the remainder to pay for direct out-of-pocket expenses related to running the Aspen chapter of the Commanderie) and a Wine Assessment. The latter fee will allow us to purchase wine and build a cellar
over time so that we can drink older vintages in the future at reasonable prices.
The Founding Members will collectively decide upon the level of the above fees. At this time the Initiation Fee for non-Founding Members is $10,000 per person. Annual Dues are currently $500 and the Wine Assessment is $1,000 per year.
What are the Chapter’s activities?
Our dinners (called parlements from the French verb “parler” – to talk) are held to enjoy, discuss, and learn about the wines of Bordeaux. Events are generally held during the summer and winter seasons. Initially, I was thinking of three formal dinners the first year: June/July, Oct/Nov, and February / March plus 1-2 BYOB dinners each year. Dinners are typically 4-5 course events and have a core theme such as a vertical (multiple vintages of the same label) or a selection of wines from a specific appellation like Margaux or Saint Emilion, or comparisons of the same vintage from the Right or Left bank. The discussion involves both an evaluation of the wine and how it pairs with food courses, as well as
exploring other nuances of Bordeaux wine. In addition, we will hold wine tastings and BYOB (Bring Your Own Bordeaux) dinners. We are arranging a group tour of Bordeaux in September 2022.
In addition, we encourage Bordeaux winemakers (vigneron) to come to Aspen to pour their wines. These events provide a special opportunity to gain firsthand insight from the vignerons as well as to develop lasting personal relationships. In many cases it may also be an opportunity to explore and discover a rising star offering great value.
Where do the wines come from?
Currently, most of the wines will come by donations from individuals and purchases for that event. Over time, more wines will come from the Chapter cellar as we create it through Initiation Fees, Annual Wine Assessments, and individual contributions. Wines will be chosen by the Chapter Wine Committee, often taking advantage of en primeur offerings.
What will dinners cost?
Collectively all Commanderie events are priced to break even after considering supplemental costs such as service charges, corkage, parking, entertainment, and sales tax.
We recognize the importance of providing outstanding and unique programs while also sponsoring activities that are attractive and accessible to the entire range of our membership. We anticipate that most dinners will be held in private homes.
We will attempt to balance the cost of dinners. Some people can afford any wine and are willing to pay any price for the best. Others are more price sensitive and want to learn about the wines of Bordeaux. We will try to balance dinners with some high-end dinners, chateaux dinners, and BYOB events. Dinners will generally be priced in the range of $300-500 per person.
As an example of recent high-end dinners in Aspen, the Little Nell charged $2,500 for a Margaux dinner and the Caribou Club charged $900 for New Year’s Eve dinner (not including tax, tip or libations).
Must one be a Bordeaux wine connoisseur?
Absolutely not. The Commanderie has two parallel thrusts: to assemble persons who enjoy tasting and discussing Bordeaux wine and its food accompaniment with each other, and to promote interest in and knowledge of Bordeaux wines. The Chapter welcomes those who are already confirmed collectors of Bordeaux as well as those who are just starting on their journey of connoisseurship.
Must one speak French?
Non! But it is desired that Commandeurs make an effort to pronounce the names of the Bordeaux wines with reasonable accuracy.
Are there special ceremonies in the Commanderie?
Yes. New members are formally inducted by the senior National officer, known as the Grand Maître, in a ceremony whose form is quite ancient. However, his visits to a given chapter are necessarily infrequent, so the senior officer of the chapter known as the Maître may induct new members provisionally. Additionally, the parlements are conducted according to a protocol laid down by the worldwide organization.