Pantheon Cellar Design Services Featured in Modern Luxury Magazine

Pantheon Cellar Design Services Featured in Modern Luxury Magazine

Stellar Cellars
It’s been just more than a decade since Johnson Ho took the leap to become a solo purveyor of fine wine, opening Pantheon Wine Shoppe. It is unlikely that a greater concentration of trophy bottles exists anywhere in the state; a stroll through the space reveals row after dazzling row of grand cru Burgundy, collectable Bordeaux and a king’s ransom worth of Barolo. Ho’s customers need a good place to keep all that good stuff, of course, and he also provides expert cellar design and installation, as with this 2,600-capacity gem. “In the upscale wine cellar design space,” he’ll admit under questioning, “I am considered one of the foremost in the world.”
899 Skokie Blvd., Ste. 102, Northbrook, 847-498-1414. - David Zivan

November 18, 2016

November 18, 2016

Holiday Greetings & Cheers! 

Our HoHoHo season has started with a loud pop this month! Heeding my advice to ship this year’s holiday gifts early due to El Nina’s severe winter conditions many executives promptly expressed their gratitude to customers and colleagues with very generous presents.

We are especially pleased with our new leading edge gift boxes custom designed by us for stunning presentation impact and advanced safety features for insulated and cushioned transportation. They will convey an image of top quality and sophistication never attained before. Several CEOs commented that our wine gifts have consistently rated most popular by the recipients because they could share the wines with family and friends. The oldest fan of our gift service will celebrate the 30th anniversary this year. We watched both our businesses struggle and thrive over the past decades, but his blossomed into a multi-billion dollar industrial leader that celebrates with our wines at all key events.

Please contact or visit the shop for your holiday entertainment and gift needs. Our offerings have never been this fabulous before! If you wish to order online, please see our new Holiday Gift Service page on the Pantheon Wine Shoppe website.

A while ago I was challenged to come up with some out-of-the-box lifetime oenophile gifts that could rival a Neiman-Marcus catalog dream gift… I accepted the challenge:

A life-time Wine Extravaganza and World Class Wine Cellar

A fully stocked, custom designed world class wine cellar containing the legendary vintages going back centuries and trophy wines rarely seen on earth. The Grand Opening party will commence with a private winetasting session called “The Seven Wine Wonders of the World”, each paired with the most exquisite culinary masterpiece prepared by a star chef. To gain a better appreciation of the top wine growing regions of the world, the recipient gets to visit some of the greatest estates, meet the principals and savor a private winetasting on site. Whenever possible the guests will stay at the estate and enjoy a meal there, too. To gain special insights, I will also act as the expert guide along the way.

Souvenir bottles from sentimental vintages or large format bottles signed by the winemakers will be made available. Some conditions and restrictions are subject to discussions if there is a legitimate interest.

Cost: $8 million+.

Pantheon Wine Shoppe has created such a spectacle for one of the wealthiest persons on earth before! Scaled down versions of this offer are available by contacting Johnson Ho at the shop.

Wishing you and yours a sumptuous Thanksgiving holiday!


Johnson Ho and the Pantheon Wine Team

October 29, 2016

October 29, 2016

Greetings & Autumn Cheers!

Our Holiday Season commenced with a double surprise when a few long time cellar clients asked me to help restock their showpiece wine cellars while eight others hired me to design and fill their new cellars.

In one case we all had a big chuckle when one wine purchase exceeded $60,000 and the credit card company declined the approval. Since the credit limit for that card apparently was in the mid-6 digits, the client calmly called his assistant to look into the matter. A few minutes later we learned that his wife had made a large purchase at the same time elsewhere. Without any sign of upset he asked me to resubmit the charge and it was promptly approved. When we delivered the van load of cases into his cellar a short time later, the couple was savoring life to the fullest…

Such acquisitions may seem mind boggling to some, but not to us because many of our highly intelligent, successful clients have heeded my advice about stocking up NOW in order to ride out at least 6 years of small crops of mostly modest quality (2010 – 2016). A European wine magazine just calculated that the prices of Burgundies have doubled in the last 5 vintages despite their mostly mediocre reviews. Several visiting winemakers from Europe also confirmed that the climate change there has been traumatic. Very reminiscent of their horror decade of the 1970s when I started in the fine wine trade.

On the upside I am delighted to announce the new crop of diligently curated arrivals from across the globe that are certain to dazzle your senses.

The 2014 white Burgundies fared very well (B+) in the hands of top talented producers, but the pricing ranges from attractive to insulting unless you have an expert screener. Here are some of our top value recommendations:

  • 2014 Domaine Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis (deliciously crisp bargain) $24.97
  • 2014 Paul Pernot Bourgogne Chardonnay (delightful sipper, spritely) $32.97
  • 2014 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey (tiny allocations of our favorite shadow sites)
  • Many more are still arriving, but react promptly due to their small production.

White Bordeaux bargain of the vintage:

  • 2014 Clos des Lunes (marvelously vibrant citrus aromas, silky) $28.97 (Yes!)

White Rhone Rising Super Star:

  • 2015-Andre Brunel Chateauneuf du Pape Les Cailloux Blanc (better than our best selling 2014 vintage this summer, wonderful opulence and minerality) $52.97

Italian Reds from Tuscany reached new heights in 2010 due to their voluptuousness and dramatic flavor exuberance, a milestone vintage not to be missed:

  • 2010 Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino $88.97
  • 2010 Podere Brizio Brunello di Montalcino Riserva $99.97
  • 2010 Podere Il Poggione Vigna Paganelli Brunello di Montalcino $138.00
  • 2010 Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva $129.97
  • A real bargain gem is one our long-time favorites for casual pasta dishes: 2014 Le Volte dell Ornellaia (little brother to Ornellaia for a song) $31.97

The 2013 vintage in Napa has earned superlative reviews, but with very limited availability:

  • 2013 Continuum (Tim Mondavi’s legacy flagship, superbly elegant) $232
  • 2013 Joseph Phelps Insignia (a classic rendition of hillside bravura) $268 2013
  • Opus One (perhaps their best vintage rendition yet!) $278 ($148/half bottle) 2013
  • Dominus (a real serious and brooding athlete with brain appeal) $298

Top bargain:

  • 2012 Silverado Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Half Bottle (a real steal!) $22.97

We are receiving scores of cases every week to stock up for the near future as the drought in California continues to take its toll. We urge diligence and caution as the market returns to the minefield of painfully expensive mistakes again due to speculators and fraudsters stoking the “pump & dump” schemes! There are many more exciting stories and arrivals to tell, but a visit to the shop or a phone call would be far more relevant and efficient for you to identify the prospects vs. suspects.

We are also working diligently on our new Gift Service Program that will feature gorgeous custom fabricated gift boxes, unique accessories and sophisticated treats for cosmopolitan gourmets. You can learn about them in our next issue.

Wishing you a fun and safe Halloween!

Johnson Ho and the Pantheon Wine Team

September 17, 2016

September 17, 2016

Harvest Updates

The grape harvesting is in full swing across Europe. The latest intelligence point to another small vintage and very variable quality due to Spring hail storms, frosts and summer drought conditions. The resulting supply shortages since 2010 will mean further price leaps in the coming years and very slim pickings for the great estates.

The West Coast continues to struggle with drought conditions and heat waves in California. A real concern now is the potential smoke contamination of grapes in the path of big fire storms. However old vines with long roots will shine in such dry years.

Our wine selections will shift dramatically in the next 4 years as we avoid underwhelming and grotesquely over-priced wines. We will do the hard research work for you in order to provide you with optimal offerings.

New Arrivals
While the 2013 vintage in Europe generally disappointed us, the Californian reds have stunned us with exceptionally vibrant aromas and delicious opulence. My advance tasting of the 2013 Opus One reached levels of excitement that bordered immoral ecstasy, a highly rare occurrence! A rather small harvest and severe barrel selections ensured superlative quality, this wine may rank among the best of the best of the decade! (I will reserve the “vintage of the century” for another 60 years… in contrast to other oracles…) My large allocation is expected to arrive in October, but I highly recommend that you contact me with you reservation. Price: $288/bottle or $273.60 with a 6 bottle case discount.

Another spectacular, but obscure gem is Overture, the second wine of Opus One at a fraction of the price. Consisting of barrels not used in the master blend, I loved the "little brother” tremendously, especially at the price of $118/bottle, a stunning bargain.

For the ne plus ultra Cab lovers I also have been allocated some 2013 Screaming Eagle and its little brother, Second Flight! Please contact me to join the wait list for an allocation.

The current political skirmishes between the Presidential candidates have largely left me with a bad taste in the mouth. One evening while watching the debates over dinner I wondered what each candidate would serve at her/his inaugural dinner….

Chicken a la Hillary: 2 left wings grilled with smashed smart phone bits and paired with 2016 St. Innocence Blanc de Noirs memories….

Buffalo Lips a la Donald: a pair of huge cracklings spiced with vague expertise, hot bluster, taut racial distraction and pungent self-aggrandizements, paired with Yellow Snow Brut Magnum…


Johnson Ho and the Pantheon Wine Team

July 13, 2016

July 13, 2016

Greetings & Cheers!

Welcome to my 30th Anniversary celebration as an entrepreneur and intrepid innovator of fine wine retailing!

Our new website design,, has improved greatly after months of cobbling together leading edge software with sophisticated audio/visual features. Our team is slaving away at populating our wine inventory on line with our own photos, including the OWC (original wood case) gems, to prove their perfect provenance here. In a few weeks, more dazzling features will emerge.

Lastly, we wish to express our appreciation for your patronage with a summer promotion that includes over 30 wines on sale, most of our wine glasses and carafes at 20+% off and many other accessories at up to 50% off! Please contact me if you do not have an opportunity to drop by and we can seek out the relevant candidates for you.

Looking forward to welcoming you soon to toast to my milestone celebration!

A Look Back at Our Evolution

From a modest 1100 sq. ft. showroom in a modest strip shopping center in Deerfield featuring only 280 wines in 1986, I started Knightsbridge Wine Shoppe with just one assistant. Within a decade my wine cellar design and stocking business had outgrown the facility. In 1996 I moved the operation to my custom built shop in Northbrook where it quickly gained international attention for sophisticated merchandising and world class wine selections (aka The Windy City’s Wizard Wine according to Market Watch Magazine in 5/2000). I started Pantheon Wine Shoppe in 2006 by focusing more on rising stars as well as the Best in Class Super Stars of the vinous firmament. It has been a gloriously sumptuous journey! Thank you all for all your encouragement, support and extraordinary loyalty over the years!

To paraphrase the ancient wisdom: it’s not just about the size/score, it’s about how you enjoy it! Hence our mantra of enlightenment, enrichment and empowerment of your senses and sensibilities.

Looking forward to welcoming soon!


Johnson and the Pantheon Wine Team

June 24, 2016

June 24, 2016

Greetings and Cheers!

My last newsletter unleashed a catharsis of pent up demand that rivaled our holiday season as many of you realized how depleted your wine racks had become. Some called me to thank me for resuming my humorous ruminations about in vino veritas and human foibles. They missed them more than they had realized. I aim to resume my regular schedule from here on.

Well, my travails in the techno world continue with a fast paced Tango and a chaotic dance partner who leans too far back for my center of gravity…! Although the new website is up and technically functional, we trip over unknown traps of arcane coding requirements that render us mute or moot sporadically, akin to auto-spell-correct turning the red Burgundy grape into a black phallus…! Another puzzling surprise that stumped us was when a bottle size listed 9 digits (faat finger!) and promptly derailed the inventory system. However, the site looks classy and will become a new benchmark for sophisticated design in the coming couple of months. Please monitor our progress at and offer us your feedback. It still may be electronic wine kiddie porn to some, but it is at least bright eyed and cerebrally curious.

My latest Global Wine Intelligence Agency survey continues to discern rather distressing market developments. For the 6th consecutive year Burgundy suffered horrendous frosts and hail storms that will reduce the harvest yield by up to 70% in some areas. This will impact your access to great wines down the road, not to mention another spiral of price increases. You are fortunate with us however. In my slanted view of vintage history the golden decades of the 90s and millennium, I concluded that Ying would yield to Yang and the meager decades were bound to follow. Pantheon amassed a jaw dropping cornucopia of gems from the top vintages of 2005, 2009 and 2010 that astounded the dozens of French producers making their pilgrimage to Pantheon annually.

One highly cosmopolitan executive from Tuscany simply remarked that between the Garden of Eden and Armageddon, Pantheon Wine Shoppe would be an oenophile’s paradise for the ultimate joys that are legal, ethical, moral and affordable. He obviously attended an elite Jesuit college-prep school in Florence… He shared a number of insights and concerns about global warming, drought, new pestilence challenges and emerging Asian economies now vying for top wine allocations currently going to the U.S. An almost scarily sobering thought!

When things get tough, the tough…stock up while they can! Please contact me for a private meeting to evaluate your needs and wants while the Cherries (Jubilee) pickings still abound here.

You can also expect more steep price increases in the next few years.

Many of you probably have read about the potentially great 2015 Bordeaux and the initial futures offerings. Market Watch Magazine is covering this topic in their current issue that includes my quotes and photo. For the first time in decades I am declining to recommend participating in this program for many reasons. From currency instability due to Brexit to trade channel integrity (manipulative tactics) and fraud schemes the risks far outweigh the potential benefits at the high end and no real benefit to buy at the lower end. One insider confirmed an orchestrated effort to pump up the enthusiasm and prices following 5 years of declining profits leading to massive losses in Bordeaux. I witnessed that scheme unfold with the 1975 vintage futures campaign early in my career. It ended up being a real stinker for everyone except the producers and brokers.

Bordeaux was once the bread and butter of fine wine retailers like Johnson Ho of Pantheon Wine Shoppe (pictured). The category remains important, but focus has shifted from en primeur sales to vintages that are ready to drink. (Market Watch 6-16-2016)

Please contact me for an appointment to catch up on our recent acquisitions and sample some of the gems I have been hatching for up to a decade here.

Looking forward to welcoming you in an old world style of conviviality and l’art de vivre!

Johnson Ho and the Pantheon Wine Team

June 1, 2016

June 1, 2016

Greetings and Cheers!

 Welcome to our new website design and my apologies for our long overdue update of newsworthy events in the world of fine wine. Our past few months of computer upgrades and updates have gone like this:

 A new Presbyterian minister was transferred to our neighborhood. He wanted to meet the local priest and rabbi to get acquainted with the various communities and learn about special ecumenical concerns. They agreed to an afternoon fishing trip on Lake Michigan for a welcoming meeting. 

 After they met by the boat pier and set off, the priest announced that he had forgotten a bottle of wine in his car. So he jumped out of the boat and swiftly skipped across 30 yards of water to reach the beach. A couple of minutes later he reappeared with a bottle in his hand and adroitly jumped back into the water only to skip across the water to reach the boat. The minister’s jaw dropped at that sight.

“Oh, that reminds me that I have a corkscrew and some wine glasses in my car” said the rabbi. With that he jumped out of the boat and quickly skipped across the water to the pier. When he returned to the boat the same way, the minister went bug-eyed with astonishment. After a gulp of air, he apologized for his prohibition against alcohol consumption, but had a bottle of water in his car… With that he jumped out only to sink deep into the water and struggled back up fighting for a gasp of air.

 The priest and rabbi looked at each other. Shaking their heads, the priest said, “why didn’t he first ask where the tall rocks are”?

 While I may be a trusted source for wine expertise, my goal to create a state of the art fine wine website for the past 10 months has followed the minister’s missteps…After 3 catastrophic false starts, the Pantheon Wine Renaissance has finally emerged electronically. I hope you like it.

 You will be receiving a series of new features and benefits in the course of the next few months to help your wine appreciation aspirations; or think of them in this context:

 In the course of one of their monthly get together suppers, the overserved priest chided the rabbi for his kosher restriction. “Don’t you agree that with modern hygiene practices this practice is an anachronism? Haven’t you ever been tempted to taste a slice of Prosciutto ham”? Terribly embarrassed the rabbi nodded. “I am deeply ashamed to admit that I have indeed succumbed to my temptation and sampled some with pleasure…”. The priest grins from ear to ear at that.

 “Monsignor, now you have sworn to keep your chastity for life! Haven’t you ever been tempted to commit adultery in all these years”? Caught off guard the priest blushes in shades of red and admitted to having broken his vow. At that the rabbi looks at him sternly and says “tell me, my friend, wasn’t that much nicer than your damn ham”?

 Serendipity, my friends, can turn up with many twists. We look forward to speaking with you or welcoming you into our Shoppe to share the latest joys of wine appreciation.


 Johnson Ho and the Pantheon Wine Team

Pantheon Holiday News

Pantheon Holiday News

The HoHoHo Wine Work Shoppe has been cranking out wine gifts to all corners of the country at a stunning rate of up to 250 pieces per day!  Our new gorgeous luxury 2 bottle wine valise has proven wildly popular for elegant presents that range from $600 to $1,500 each.  Over 50 sets sold within the first few days.  The impetus for the leatherette wine carriers stems from a request from the spouse of a customer who just dreaded the quality of wine served on private jets, especially returning from abroad.  My assignment was to find a fashionable (matching her Louis Vuitton luggage) wine tote that was highly functional to carry a chilled bottle of Champagne and wine. Sans Soucis (French: without worries) I obliged avec panache.

However our "bread & butter" customized gift sets remain our signature best sellers.  Some clients are returning for their 30th year because of their recipients' glowing feedback.  They took note of my earlier alert to act early this year due to weather and vacation schedule risks. If you need to order your wine gifts still, Monday, 12/14, is the deadline for nationwide delivery!

Our gift options range from obscure stellar wine talents that cost less than $20 to the ultra-exclusive 1863 Taylor Fladgate Single Harvest Port in a luxurious decanter set for $3,700 per bottle (only a handful of cases were released to the U.S.). This Port's decadent opulence and transcendent finish, like the multiple fermatas of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, approaches Oenoerotica...!  An incredible life time highlight!  Pantheon Wine premiered its predecessor, the 1850 Taylor Fladgate Scion Port, 2 years ago with the estate's CEO at Carlos Restaurant.  We promptly received the largest allocation of it in the world as a result. Despite its exorbitant price repeat buyers begged for more within months. 

Several internationally educated clients mentioned to me that my linguistic inferences always made their day, if not weeks with their fellow oenophiles. They challenged me to more "bons mots" (French: good/witty words).  Noblesse oblige: what is the difference between self-appointed American wine critics without accredited credentials addicted to huge dimensions vs. old European wine tome scribes in praise of ancient clarets?  Pedoenophiles without respect for circumspection vs. Necroenophiles dwelling on furtive memories and Ersatz climax of enoerotic pleasures long after ED (Eno Dystrophy), has set in.

Lastly, a very astute business executive stopped by recently to discuss restocking his wine cellar after years of depletion.  He was shocked by the dearth of older top vintages and the steep prices of the new releases.  I reminded him of the advice given in many of my older newsletters: caveat emptor (Latin: let the buyer beware) and tempus fugit (time flies).  We enlighten, enrich and empower our clients' optimal joys of wine appreciation.  When clients insist on buying size 16 EEE Timberland Boots to be worn in bed to impress someone, the unintended consequences could include a sweaty, hairy behemoth expecting a huge surprise quickly... Relevance and resonance are highly personal.  Kinky fantasies may not match someone's real needs and wants... He laughed out loud and promptly bought multiple cases of my recommendations to share with his lovely spouse and wine passionate friends.

Looking forward to welcoming you soon to toast to some holiday cheers! .

Best Wiahes,

Johnson Ho and the Pantheon Wine Team