In 1994, Yvonne Roberts was engaged by the luxurious, iconic Biltmore Hotel in Miami, Florida to develop and launch a distinctive, dues-based social membership called the Cellar Club, presenting specialty events, with a focus on food and wine-related venues. “You create a dining experience,” she says, “with the knowledge that flavor is made up of not only taste, but all of our senses: what we see, hear, touch, and smell, and how every aspect of dining—from the color and shape of a plate to the music playing in the background—affects our perception of flavor.” Through her passion to give, combined with her appreciation of food and wine, and her philosophy of “Water Separates the People of the World; Wine & Food Unites Them,” Roberts became director and co-founder of the Biltmore International Wine and Food Weekend Festival, which raised more than $6 million for local charities.
With over 20 years under her belt in the industry, Roberts was the recipient of prestigious accolades such as the James Beard Award nominee for “Outstanding Wine Service” in 2011 and Zagat’s ranking as South Florida’s top wine list in 2012. “Some of my most cherished memories are to have savored a bounty of exquisite, palatable flavors alongside some of the world’s most talented star chefs and winemakers,” says Roberts. Her collaborative experiences encompass the culinary talents of Alain Ducasse, Remi Krug, Todd English, Robert Mondavi, Norman Van Aken, Larry Maguire, Jean-Paul Jeunet, Anthony Barton, Bruno Cirino, Daniel Haas and Philippe Ruiz. All of whom represent a small sampling of the extraordinary and celebrated food and wine experts she has worked with throughout the years, and are the inspiration for this publication.
I first met Yvonne Roberts at a charity event to raise money for the Diabetes Research Institute in Miami. Yvonne was working for The Wine News magazine, and I was the wine buyer at Sunset Corners and running the Miami chapter of The Friends of Wine Club. This meeting would lead to decades of our collaboration helping charities including the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, United Way and Baptist Health South Florida.
When Yvonne came to me and told me that the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables had asked her to start a wine club at the hotel, I told her she had rocks in her head and not to do it. Boy was I wrong! Yvonne went on to have the best wine club in the United States. Talk about “classy,” the wine themed dinners she coordinated and the Royal Tables she organized were legendary. At dinner, I always felt like the Great Gatsby.
Yvonne worked tirelessly coordinating the Biltmore Wine Festivals which were attended by thousands for many years. The wine list at the Biltmore was voted Best in Miami. The Palme d’Or restaurant in the hotel was fine dining in such a special way. These honors plus the wine bar, a cigar room and all the special touches she brought helped the Biltmore Hotel achieve and maintain its great status.
As may be noted, I am a big fan of Yvonne Roberts.
by Chip Cassidy
Principal | GURU OF LUXURY
Hospitality Industry Consultanting 20+ Years Experience