I received a call earlier this week from a friend of mine who I’ve written about here before—Scot Ziskind, the highly regarded custom storage, humidification, and cooling expert, owner of ZipCo Environmental Services, Inc. and My Cellar wine storage firm. A long-time client of his had recently passed away, and, as per his instructions, Scot was to open his locker, catalog the wines in it, and sell them off, with the proceeds to go to his wife.
Over the course of a couple of hours on a damp afternoon, we unpacked, cataloged, and repacked over ten cases—everything that this man had left of his collection, all the bottles he hadn’t had the chance to open with family and friends while he was still here. (The good news, Scot told me, is that his client had made a point of pulling his favorite bottles to share before it was too late.)
It was a bittersweet afternoon: This, after all, was all that was left of another man’s beloved wine collection, of another man’s passion. There was something touching and surprisingly intimate about the process: With the sale of the bottles he had left behind, his wife would receive a bit of a financial windfall; and on our end, we were handling (very carefully, of course) bottle after bottle that he had chosen himself, each, ostensibly, for a different reason that only he, ultimately, ever really knew.
And what bottles they were. With each case we sliced open, we discovered new, often unexpected treasures. Certain ones, of course, weren’t all that surprising: The bottles of Lynch Bages, the assortment of Ducru-Beaucaillou, the smattering of Cheval Blanc and marquis California producers and Gaja Barbaresco. We even found a single 1982 Lafite, which will benefit his wife immeasurably. But other wines were less expected, and spoke of a man who loved experiencing all that the wine world had to offer just as much as he loved collecting its most prominent examples (there’s often a big difference): JL Chave Hermitage Blanc, Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, a couple of older Echezeaux from Mongeard-Mugneret—wines whose value, despite their higher cost, are far more about idiosyncrasy and personal taste than anything else.
In the end, it took just over two hours to complete the project. The sale of the bottles shouldn’t be all that time consuming, either. But despite the brevity of the work itself, there was something undoubtedly intimate about it. I didn’t know the man who once sought out, purchased, and stored these bottles. In fact, I’d never even met him. But in helping to close the circle on his wine life—in helping to do the final accounting of the wines he left behind and, in some small way, contributing to the reward that the wife who survives him will ultimately reap—I feel as if I’m connected to him now in some small way.
Wine, perhaps more than anything else, has the unusual ability to bring people together that way. Even if they never knew each other.