Don Stott got the tip that pushed him into serious wine collecting in 1963, when most Americans thought high-end drinking meant soaking up very dry martinis.
At New York’s 21 Club, where Stott had often eaten with his parents, then head sommelier Mario Ricci advised him to buy cases of 1961 Bordeaux. The 24-year-old Stott listened and purchased. He still has some 1961 Chateau Mouton Rothschild.
But on a trip to Europe soon after, he had a “conversion” to Burgundy. Over the next 50 years he built one of the world’s great collections of the region’s seductive reds and whites. He was savvier than he imagined at the time. If you look at a list of the most expensive wines in the world today, the majority of them are from Burgundy.
This year he put thousands of cases on the block at Sotheby’s in New York. Part one, last spring, brought in $8,412,626.
Now, on Dec. 3 and 4, it’s time for part two.
Stott jokingly calls the two sales, “my retirement account.”
Well, only sort of. He also spent decades on Wall Street, mostly at the New York Stock Exchange specialist firm his father co-founded, Wagner Stott Mercator LLC. He and his partners sold it to Bear Stearns in early 2001 for more than $625 million.
I first met Stott at New York’s bi-annual Burgundy bash, La Paulee. He’d brought very rare jeroboams (the equivalent of 4 bottles) of 1964 and 1969 La Tache to share ($12,000 and $8,000–$15,000 at auction, respectively).
At its peak, his collection included about 120,000 bottles.
So how did he amass such a stellar cellar? He puts it down to passion, mentors, contacts, relationships, and persistence, plus he was collecting during a period when only a few connoisseurs had their eyes on Burgundy rather than Bordeaux. “When everyone else was focused on one thing I looked elsewhere,” he said. (Where would he look now for wines that aren’t so expensive? “Pinot from Oregon,” he said, “They’re very good, very elegant. I’m already buying some made by Dominique Lafon.”)