Every now and then, when I’m feeling fancy and highbrow, I’ll go see a show at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley. All of the big, old names in performance pass through there. Alvin Ailey and the Joffrey Ballet for example. Lots of classical music. Most of the audience has gray hair and wears sensible shoes. That kind of culture, you know.
There’s also a grant named Zellerbach. Every year my artist friends compete for it and are happy when they get it because it’s not insubstantial.
What I’m trying to say is that, around the Bay Area at least, the name Zellerbach carries some weight. James D Zellerbach was a successful businessman, he was instrumental in the administration of the Marshall Plan, he served as ambassador to Italy, he was a big philanthropist and, it turns out, he founded a winery in Sonoma County too. The Hanzell Winery’s name is a combination of Zellerbach’s wife’s first name, Hana, and, well, Zellerbach, and the wines it produces are as respectable, successful and well heeled as everything else Ambassador Zellerbach laid his hands on.
It makes us, here at our humble little hotel, seem kind of cool, pouring Ambassador Zellerbach’s wines out for free every night. It’s like we get to participate in the world of international diplomacy and the kind of snooty, out-of-touch philanthropy that is the reason a company like the Joffrey Ballet gets to stay alive in spite of its cultural irrelevance. The people who made this wine never had to sully their hands with cash and, my friends, when you sip their wares in our bar, neither do you. From 5-7 anyway.