Wines Worth Collecting
Bottles that deserve a spot in your cellar—and on your dining table
What makes a wine special and splurge-worthy? We talked to Jeb Fiorita of Val’s Putnam Wine & Liquors in Greenwich about finding coveted bottles and valuable vintages. Fiorita is the second-generation owner of Val’s, which has been in business sixty years and enjoys close relationships with producers around the world. “We encourage people to come in, get educated and sample wine,” says Fiorita, who notes that the best way to pick a wine you’ll love is to try it. “We’re all unique individuals with different tastes and that’s why we have thousands of bottles on our shelves.”
If you’re collecting high-end wines, the bottles you purchase will depend on the goal of your collection — are you investing to create value and be able to resell wines or are you just buying wine to drink yourself? Those looking for wines that can be resold need to pay attention to the ratings from Robert Parker, Decanter and Wine Spectator. Here, some ideas on what to buy now.
“I’m telling my collectors that Burgundy is becoming more valuable,” he says. Both 2009 and 2010 were wonderful vintages, but then in 2011, there were problems with the crops across Burgundy and production went down by 30 percent (though bottles produced that year were still of good quality). Production went down another 50 percent in 2012. “We’re almost out of Burgundy, which means it will be priced higher,” says Fiorita, who’s been telling his clients for years to buy Burgundy, based on his conversations with French wine makers. In fact, Grand Cru Burgundy dominates the list of the world’s most expensive wines.
In California, there’s a trend where individual winemakers who’ve risen to fame at top vineyards are now producing their own wines. Certain winemakers take on side projects, picking select barrels or certain plots on vineyards to produce smaller-batch wines under their own labels. “These are going to be the new craft wines in our country,” says Fiorita. An example is Celia Welch, who’s a consulting winemaker to some of Napa Valley’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon estates, including the famous Scarecrow Vineyard. Welch has now created her own label call Corra Wines with grapes from three prime vineyards in three of Napa’s premium growing regions. She’s also the winemaker for Monsieur Etain wines, a companion label to Scarecrow.
While working at Merryvale Vineyards, winemaker Bob Levy partnered with real estate developer Bill Harlan to create a ‘first growth’ Napa red called Harlan Estate, which commands prices close to $700. Bob Levy is also responsible for two other Harlan brands: Bond and The Maiden. Since his success with Harlan, Bob Levy started a personal brand, Levy & McClellan, with his wife, winemaker Martha McClellan.
Heidi Peterson Barrett became a winemaking sensation in 1992 when Robert Parker awarded her Screaming Eagle 100 points. In 2000, a six-liter bottle of 1992 Screaming Eagle sold for $500,000, the most expensive California wine ever sold. While Screaming Eagle continues its reign, Barrett has launched La Sirena, a wine of similar quality that, even at $150 a bottle, is substantially more affordable.
Fiorita points to Burly Vineyards of Napa Valley, which is producing some raved-about Cabernet Sauvignons and earning top scores from Wine Spectator since its initial production. From Argentina, Catena Zapata wines have earned top scores from Robert Parker and Wine Spectator while being much less expensive than other top-ranked wines, $135 a bottle versus $500+ per bottle. “We look at value and find these anomalies in the marketplace,” says Fiorita. “Our ability to source rare and different items is very good. If you can’t buy it here, we’ll tell you where you can buy it.”