In a historic event coordinated by Sotheby’s, the famed international auction house, Park B. Smith ’54 is selling part of his prestigious wine collection—and the proceeds of the sale will benefit alma mater.
By James Dempsey
Park B. Smith ’54 is wandering through the labyrinthine wine cellars beneath his home in Lakeville, Conn., bidding a fond farewell to his babies.
Thousands and thousands of them.
“It’s a little sad,” he says with a smile. “I remember when I bought each one.”
Among the endless rows of wine, six workers from Sotheby’s auction house painstakingly open wooden cases, check the wines, replace the bottles in their cases and return each nail to its original hole. As the wines are slowly authenticated and repacked—the work will take all week—the cases are moved by elevator to the first floor and loaded into a refrigerated 18-wheeler truck sitting in the driveway.
They are headed for a temperature-controlled warehouse where they will be held until they are sold to wine-lovers at a daylong auction on Nov. 18 at Sotheby’s in New York. The proceeds—Sotheby’s is low-balling the day’s take at $3-to-$5 million, and very possibly more—will be donated by Smith and his wife, Linda, to Holy Cross, toward the construction or restoration of the College’s athletics facilities.
Smith, a robust and bright-eyed 74 year old, with a full head of white hair, never expected to own more wine than he could ever possibly drink. But as his passion for wine grew, so did his cellar, and, over the years, he burrowed deeper and deeper to make more space for the burgeoning collection. Soon, what had been a simple root cellar under his home was transformed into six temperature-controlled wine cellars—to which were added a full underground kitchen and dining room, a bathroom and even an elevator. The spaces are decorated with smoked glass mirrors and the many sculptures and paintings Smith picked up during his trips to Asia—and on the walls hang photographs of Smith with the great vintners and wine critics of the day. Also adorning the area are still-life arrangements of empty bottles, each memorializing some fondly remembered evening of friends, food and wine. Smith’s cellar is a temple to wine.
“This is one of the best cellars in the world,” says Jamie Ritchie, senior vice president of Sotheby’s and head of the auction house’s United States wine department. “The scale of it is just amazing.”
“Every bottle I ever bought I thought I would drink,” Smith says. “I guess my eyes were bigger than my stomach.”
The Gift of Wine continued>>>