In 2001, Aubrey McClendon walked into an Oklahoma City wine shop seeking an education. His growing prominence as chief executive of Chesapeake Energy Corp. increasingly placed him at formal dinners where he was handed a wine list and invited to make a selection.
“He didn’t know anything about wine, and it upset him,” recalls Stan Stack, owner of Beau’s Wine Bin & Spirit Shoppe in Oklahoma City.
In the years that followed, McClendon became America’s most prolific driller, a billionaire and a world-famous collector of Bordeaux. On Saturday, six months after McClendon died in a fiery single-vehicle crash in Oklahoma City, his wine collection will be sold at auction and is expected to fetch as much as $7.6 million.
“It’s a bittersweet thing,” says Ben Nelson, president of Hart David Hart Wine Co., the Chicago-based auctioneer handling the sale. “For a while, Aubrey was the most important wine buyer in America.”
The McClendon collection won’t break any financial records. A sale this May by billionaire William Koch drew nearly $22 million, according to Sotheby’s. But the McClendon collection stands apart for its share of rare giants, including 17 18-liter melchiors, each the equivalent of 24 regular bottles of wine. “Some of these large bottles, they only made a few of them in any given year,” Nelson says.
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