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Special Issue 2010


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WINE & SPIRITS

Best Cellar
By Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave

TOURING THE PRIVATE EAST HAMPTON WINE RESERVES OF FINANCIER NICK LOBACCARO

[Image]
IN VINO VERITAS (click photo for larger view)

I believe in hard assets," says Nick Lobaccaro, a hedge fund manager and strategic wine collector. His latest acquisition is proof: a Nebuchadnezzar (13 liters—a case of wine

The genesis of Lobaccaro's wine interest came on a snowy night at Gramercy Tavern when he was 25 (he's now 41). The sommelier turned him on to the greats. He had his first taste of Château Palmer '82, Leoville-Las Cases '83 and Cockburn Vintage Port '60. Lobaccaro was hooked.

The newly built wine cellar in his East Hampton home has been filled with the carefully amassed investment collection kept in storage ever since that 1994 night. The display racks hold an array of treasures: Petrus '47 ("A wine that Robert Parker said was the most decadent of the century"), Château d'Yquem '48, Margaux and Cheval Blanc '90, Clos Erasmus ("Priorat is my passion"), an imperial of Château Ausone '05 ("It will be consumed when my kids graduate college"), Château Haut Brion, Château Pavie and Sassicaia, and from California: Bryant Family and a vertical of Harlan from '90 to '95.

"Eventually sell or drink the collection?" I ask him. He's not sure. "Collecting is the last bastion of nontaxable gains. I really don't have an exit strategy." Ever since his honeymoon in Italy, collecting has grown into a lifestyle for Lobaccaro. "We traveled all over Piedmont and Tuscany. In the late '90s, the dollar was really strong, so I bought up lots of Gaja Barbaresco and Brunello di Montalcino." For his 30th birthday, held at a Chelsea loft, he served 100 bottles of Gaja ("at only $70 a pop then").

Lobaccaro often lucks out at Zachy's auctions. "There was a big Nor'easter in December 2003; there were few people there—this was before Internet bidding—and I bid on really crazy stuff." He also acquires while on trips around the globe. In Australia he picked up a collection of cults: Duck Muck, the Dead Arm, Greenock Creek Roennfeldt Road, Torbreck Run Rig and Colonial Estate Exile. "I collect Old Bastard, too," he says. "I dined with the premier of New South Wales on his birthday and gave him a bottle of Old Bastard."

Lobaccaro's collection could be termed "global eclectic," so is he going forward with a master plan? His Brazilian wife, Patricia, takes on the question. "Nick goes through phases," she says. "He's gone through Italian, Australian and Spanish phases. Right now he's in the 2005 wine project. Our twin sons were born that year, so he's acquiring everything imaginable from their birth year."

WINE CELLARS 101:
Michael Cinque of Amagansett Wine & Spirits breaks down five essential aspects of proper wine storage:
1. LIGHT | Wine requires darkness in order to age properly. Allow no sunlight and only limited artificial light into the storage area.
2. CONSISTENT TEMPERATURE | Keep the temperature between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, otherwise wine will age too quickly.
3. STABILITY | Harsh vibrations from cars, trains or subways or proximity to airports can prevent the wine from settling properly and can crack bottles and dislodge corks.
4. ODOR | Avoid an area where strong odors linger, which will taint the wine as it ages. Use water-based stains on surfaces and no polyurethane.
5. HUMIDITY | The storage area should have a minimum humidity level of 60 percent. When the humidity is too low, the cork will dry out, shrink and allow air into the bottle, spoiling the wine. Maintaining the humidity level often requires special equipment.

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