Wine a Little: Aulden Cellars

Sotheby’s New York, along with Aulden Cellars, hosts an auction of wines expected to bring in $1.5 million to benefit Louisiana-based charitable organizations

By Valentina Zuric


Seeing as Thomas O. Ryder is the former publisher of Food & Wine magazine, it is no wonder that his personal wine cellar houses vintages of legendary proportions. The amassment is literally an oenophile’s dream, and thanks to the auction taking place at Sotheby’s, this collection can be a dream come true.

On the evening of September 7th, 2007, Aulden Cellars-Sotheby’s will offer Ryder’s cellar, a collection of 5,447 bottles comprised of 487 lots, with a focus on Bordeaux, Rhône, and California. With an expectancy to raise over one million dollars, a portion of the proceeds will benefit Louisiana based charitable organizations and schools. Dinner will also be served to registered bidders who are encouraged to bring their own bottles of wine from their cellars.

“These wines have brought my family enormous joy and I hope they do the same for the families of the buyers,” said Ryder. The cellar emanates a true reflection of Ryder’s own enthusiasm and love of wine, deriving enormous joie de vivre, as described by Serena Sutcliffe, head of Sotheby’s International Wine department. “The sale provides a fabulous opportunity for those who were too young to buy these vintages when they first came out, as Tom did,” says Sutcliffe. “There are real treasures here, from mythical wines of the 70s that fill me with nostalgia, to the best of the 80s and 90s.”

 The cellar will provide collectors with the opportunity to acquire selections that are infallible in quality.

Ryder’s love of wine began nearly forty years ago when he moved from Louisiana to California and began frequenting a burgeoning Napa Valley. He befriended winemakers, and began buying directly from top wineries, keeping with his cellar’s theme: ‘Best Wines, Best Years.’ By the mid-1970s, Ryder had honed his palate on Cabernet, turning to Bordeaux, Rhône, and eventually Burgundy. As founder of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Ryder has also become the first of three non-restaurateurs to be elected to the Distinguished Restaurants of North America Hall of Fame.

Danny Meyer, a longtime friend of Ryder and the owner of esteemed restaurants such as Tabla, Eleven Madison Park, and The Modern, has firsthand knowledge of the gems contained in this collection. While reminiscing over memories of cracking open bottles of soul-satisfying wines to accompany Ryder’s exquisite cooking, Meyer remembers exactly how these wines were chosen for the degree of satisfaction that they delivered. “Tom may not know this, but one of the real reasons I wanted to be his friend over all these years was to gain occasional access to his impeccable cellar, overflowing with so many fine and rare wines that he had no choice but to share a lot of them with me,” Meyer said.

The cellar will provide collectors with the opportunity to acquire selections that are infallible in quality. With the most expensive lot being a case of 1982 Petrus (est. $40-60,000), and the least expensive lot being ten bottles of 2000 Cantenac Brown (est. $300-400), other features will include top Bordeaux from the great vintages, as well as northern and southern Rhône wines from producers such as Guigal, Jaboulet, and Bonneau. Completing the collection is a benchmark Penfolds Grange and four decades of Vintage Port.

This special single-owner evening sale, the first of the new season, will be reflected through Ryder’s infectious enthusiasm for wine, as described by Jamie Ritchie, head of Sotheby’s Wine department in North America. “Like many people, Tom realized that he could not possibly drink all his wine in his lifetime, so he thought it was the right time to offer them at auctions, so that they can be enjoyed by other passionate collectors.”