Park B. Smith may or may not be America's greatest wine collector. With more than 40,000 bottles to his name, each one of impeccable provenance, stored in four cellars (all under the same country house in Connecticut), he can certainly claim the credentials. But the title Smith truly deserves, without question, is America's greatest wine romantic.
When Smith talks about wine, the word romantic crops up more often than it does in a Cole Porter song. For unlike many wine collectors, whose word of choice is most often money, Smith likes to talk in terms of love. "I can get a little flowery sometimes," he admits. But this 67-year-old former Marine and founder of a highly successful home furnishings company that bears his name is no mere sentimentalist. "I probably drink about a bottle of wine daily," he says. "I consider a day without wine a wasted day."
Smith defies the convention of what a wine collector should be in other ways as well. He'll pull out a rare wine, like the legendary 1947 Calon-Ségur, for a simple Friday night supper. Or he'll open his best bottles for strangers, though everything in his collection is a "best," so it's pretty hard not to. At first glance, it looks as if Smith's cellars hold as many first growths as you'll find in the cellars of Mouton or Margaux (including 60 cases of the Parker 100-point 1982 Mouton alone). There's also case after case of every California wine worth mentioning from the past 25 years. All the great old names can be found there--Stony Hill, Heitz Martha's Vineyard, Chalone, Hanzell--as well as the newer labels that would leave a Wall Streeter weak with envy: Dalla Valle Maya, Araujo, Colgin Cellars Herb Lamb and, of course, Harlan Estate, which, Smith says approvingly, is "the most passionately made wine in America."