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How much for the priciest item in Rick Siskey’s wine collection? Try $30,000-plus

Here’s a look inside the Rick Siskey wine cellar before the bottles were moved to Leland Little Auctions’ location in Hillsborough.
Here’s a look inside the Rick Siskey wine cellar before the bottles were moved to Leland Little Auctions’ location in Hillsborough.

A prized case of Bordeaux from 1982. Fine dessert wines from the 1930s. Burgundy from an elite French vineyard.

This is a sampling of the vintages that will be on the auction block next week from the collection of the late Rick Siskey, the Charlotte businessman who took his own life last year amid a fraud investigation.

More than 4,000 bottles are on sale in what auctioneer Mark Solomon says may be the largest single-owner wine collection put up for bid in Southeastern or Mid-Atlantic states. Normally, a selection of this caliber would appear in New York or Chicago, he said.

“It turns out Rick Siskey had a rather incredible wine collection,” said Solomon, the fine wine auction director at Leland Little Auctions, which is hosting the event Sept. 22-23 with Iron Horse Auction Co. “We have some incredible, very rare bottles.”

Siskey, 58, took his own life in December, days after court filings gave the first public indication that he was under investigation for fraud. An FBI affidavit unsealed in January alleged he was operating a Ponzi scheme for years, costing investors millions.

Proceeds from the wine auction, along with an earlier auction of collectible cars and other items, will benefit investors and creditors, attorneys have said. Siskey’s widow, Diane, had also pledged proceeds from life insurance and the sale of the couple’s SouthPark mansion, although claims against her could slow the process.

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A wine auction by Leland Little Auctions. Courtsey of Leland Little Auctions.

A bankruptcy trustee and an attorney for the estate are still sorting through investor claims that were due last month.

The two auctions of Siskey’s possessions provide a window into the high-flying lifestyle he built while operating what an FBI affidavit called a long-running Ponzi scheme. Instead of investing money from individuals from Charlotte and elsewhere, he used the funds for personal expenses and to pay back other investors, the affidavit said.

The auction last month of Siskey’s cars and other belongings brought in a little more than $2 million. Now the wine collection could produce between $1 million and $2 million, Solomon said.

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Ricky Siskey’s signature is visible near the top of a wooden door in the wine cellar/cigar room of his former home in Charlotte. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The assemblage had been preserved in a wine cellar below the couple’s home on Sharon Road. Over the years, Siskey and his guests had signed their names around the room.

After Leland Auctions was contracted for the sale, the firm used non-descript refrigerated trucks to move the collection to the auction house’s own wine cellar in Hillsborough.

Here are some of the highlights:

▪ Domaine de la Romanee Conti wines: These Burgundy vintages are expected to go for between $10,000 and $20,000 per bottle. “It’s really a matter of supply and demand,” said Solomon, who helped start the firm’s fine wine department when he joined in 2010. “Their vineyards are very small, and it’s just so prized and sought after it drives the price way up.”

▪ Chateau d’Yquem wines: Vintages for sale date as far back as the 1930s. “It’s just highly prized wine all over the world,” Solomon said. “There’s just not that much of it, especially of the older vintages, when you start getting to 1934 and 1945.”

▪ Case of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild: “It’s considered one of the best wines in the world,” Solomon said of the Bordeaux. “It’s unusual to have an intact case. And 1982 was probably one of the best three vintages of the last century.” The 12-bottle case will likely be the most expensive item, selling for more than $30,000, he said.

Bids can be submitted online, by telephone or in person. For more information, go to lelandlittle.com.

Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170, @rickrothacker

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