NOTED WRITER AND CONSULTANT MARK GOLODETZ OPENING HIS CELLAR TO FELLOW OENOPHILES
Interview by Amanda Crawford
Mark Golodetz has been writing about wine for over 30 years. During this time, he was a contributing editor and European correspondent for Wine Enthusiast magazine, as well as writing for Bloomberg, World of Fine Wines, and Art and Auction. In 1993, he started Sleepy Hollow Wine Company, which allowed him to run wine trips, consult to both corporations and individuals, and put together wine events that included some extraordinary tastings. He is selling 7,000 bottles from his personal cellar in Heritage’s upcoming September wine auction.
When did you first discover wine?
It was in the ’80s at an Arizona business school ironically named Thunderbird. They had a small wine club, a tiny budget, but somehow they sweet-talked the local retailers into selling classified Bordeaux and the best Cabernets at a fraction of the retail price.
What was your first really memorable wine?
The eureka moment came a couple of years later. It’s that wine that makes time stand still. Mine was the 1979 Giscours, and although it is now a little less vibrant, it makes up for it with an extraordinary complexity.
You were lucky enough to move to New York just as the 1982 Bordeaux were hitting the market. Were you able to buy any?
I did, but looking back, we should have spent our life savings, and gone into debt to buy more. I have somewhere an old Sherry Lehman catalog, and looking at it makes for sober reading. All the First Growths were $350 a case, and gems like Pichon Lalande were $110. Even Petrus was $50 a bottle. A group of us did get together and bought several cases, dividing the contents into a decent cross-section of the vintage. Sadly, I drank the last bottle of that original cache a couple of years ago, a Pichon Lalande, and a bittersweet experience it was, a brilliant wine but the end of an era.
When did you start thinking about a career in wine?
A friend asked if I wanted to taste for Wine Enthusiast magazine – then called the Wine Times – and soon I was writing articles mostly about Bordeaux, which I first visited in 1985. But my career really began In 1989, when I followed my wife to Europe, and finagled a job as the European correspondent for the magazine. This was when I really learned about wine. We were based in Geneva, a couple of hours from Burgundy, and a little longer to get to the Rhone. Although I spent a good deal of time in both regions, the connections were good enough to allow me to go to wine areas in Portugal, Spain, Germany and Italy, as well as some of the less celebrated regions of France. At the same time, my own palate was developing. I worried less about size and power, but instead began to look for balance, complexity and elegance. The cellar was beginning to take shape, plenty of classics and a good helping of fun wines such as Bandols, Madirans and Riojas that became surprisingly serious with age.
Your cellar is made up of mostly mature wines. Was this a deliberate choice?
I have always loved older wines, but early on I recognized how important storage and provenance were. I put together a home cellar with some serious racking, and a cooling unit that I call “the beast.” When it was going at full blast, it was so loud that it could drown out the TV two floors up.
The collection grew, overflowing into professional storage. I buy carefully at auction, but mostly I work with a handful of merchants, with access to long-held private collections. Through one, I met one collector who had actually fought in the Battle of Britain. He was an engineer who fashioned his cellar with an enormous electric trapdoor that went up a wall. Down a flight of stairs, I was greeted by the musk of ancient wine, and there, rows of dusty bottles of old Bordeaux and Burgundy lay. I bought a couple of cases that day, including a few bottles of my beloved Giscours.
Your love of wine comes across very clearly. Why are you now selling?
I have been lucky enough to have had a hobby and a profession I have loved. But it’s time to sell. Retirement beckons, and I have much too much wine. I have kept some back, but most need to find new homes, where I hope the bottles will be opened and give a lot of pleasure.
AMANDA CRAWFORD is Heritage Auctions’ director of fine and rare wine.
This article appears in the Fall 2019 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print edition.