My friend Walter is a “serious person.” He has a high-level government security clearance for his work in aerospace. He understands his medical insurance plan and tax law. He is a solid citizen and a valued friend. Nobody would describe him as “frivolous” or “capricious,” but he has a blind spot for wine.

When Walter first got into wine, he was as methodical as a Swiss watchmaker in his approach to getting on allocated lists. He has one of those indexed accordion document files that lawyers bring to court with them, stuffed with his correspondences with wineries up and down the coast of California. Every allocation (he got to a high of 18) was a small victory, a personal affirmation.

Don’t get me wrong, getting the wine you like every year is a good thing. To a point. But sometimes, you run into what I call the “Tyranny of The List”-: once you’re in, you can’t get out. You don’t want to say no to anything; there’s an unspoken obligation to take it all.
Walter was delighted by the steady drumbeat of UPS deliveries to his front door, but somehow—he doesn’t know how—his collection grew to over 5,000 bottles. He rationalized that the math says if you drink a bottle every night, that’s only about 15 years’ worth of wine—and he’s got more than 15 years left to go—but it doesn’t really work out that way. He started to feel like the wine owned him.

Having too much wine, as he said, “is a good problem to have.” It’s not life or death. It’s not even close. But it’s still a problem, and that begs the question: Is this really a good problem to have?

From a practical perspective, Walter was in an untenable situation. His walk-in locker at the storage place was jammed and crammed from floor to ceiling, from front to back, in a jerry-rigged 3-dimensional game of Tetris that kind of works in the sense that it all fit, but when he needed to get a particular bottle for a dinner, it was a half-day commitment. Sometimes he would sheepishly apologize and bring something that was closer at hand. And if you can’t get to a bottle, what’s the point in even having it? And, to some degree, he started looking back at his wine collection like I look at my old vinyl record collection. I used to love Punk Rock when I was in my 20s. Not so much anymore. Tastes change. I don’t hate Punk Rock now, but I don’t choose to listen to it very often.

Taking all of this into account, Walter did what a serious person does: he got out the actuarial tables and recalculated his forecasted wine consumption. He reckoned he could get by with a mere 1,000-1,200 bottles. He decided to downsize his collection substantially. This is sometimes indelicately referred to as a “cellar dump”, or “weeding out”. For solid citizen Walter, this was “taking stock.”
Walter made a list and we shopped it around to get the right deal. Selling off a couple thousand bottles has helped him reclaim the moral high ground with his wine collection. He feels like a weight has been lifted. Some of the titles showed a good ROI, but in other cases he was just getting most of his money back. Like any other portfolio of assets, they don’t all appreciate equally. My father used to say, “The winners pay for the losers.”

Walter bought a very cool car with the proceeds from the sale. Nobody is suggesting that he should—or could—stop buying wine. He withdrew from most of the lists, and after this experience he’ll be a little more selective going forward. All those “wouldn’t it be fun” wines? Maybe a bottle will satisfy his curiosity—not an annual commitment.

If the time has come for you to take stock, let Vino Vault help. Get a list together (or let us help you get your list together) and give me a call to see what can be done. I’m a pretty good resource, an objective sounding board.