Growing up in Alexandria, a small town in Louisiana, the closest thing to wine in my house was Old Crow bourbon, a distillate that would melt the tar on roads. I discovered wine with my wife, Darlene. We couldn't afford Scotch or bourbon, which were the social beverages of the moment at Louisiana State University, so we drank wine as an affordable alternative. Our favorites -- I kid you not -- were Ripple, Thunderbird, and Mogen David. When we graduated and started receiving regular paychecks, we switched to Almaden Cabernet Sauvignon and our lives began to change.
Cabernet was different and better, and I started to study wine much as I once had studied baseball cards. I began buying interesting wines and tasting them with Miss Darlene and friends when we moved to New York in the early '60s. My purchases exceeded the speed with which we drank them, and so the collection and a life-long passion began. My goal was to create a great wine cellar to drink through the years with close family and friends. In those days it never occurred to me that wine might be an "investment."
It is now 45 years later, and I am in phase two of a deaccession plan for my wine collection. Phase one, in 2007, was a sale of several thousand bottles for close to $2 million. In early spring of this year a team from Sotheby's took another 987 bottles from my cellar. This time the wine experts at Sotheby's estimated that the lot of 987 wines would bring in $70,000 to $100,000 at auction this fall.
I was disappointed. I would lose some money on this sale, something I'm not accustomed to with wine. But that simple fact speaks volumes about how the fine-wine market has evolved --