Back in the day, John Gotti — the notorious boss of the Gambino crime family — sat down at his Queens home to enjoy a Sunday dinner of chicken cacciatore made by his wife Victoria (whom he called “Butch”).
“He said, ‘Butch, this is really good,’” recalled their daughter, Victoria. Then he noticed the bottle of burgundy Butch had used in the sauce. “He started laughing and held up the bottle and said, ‘Are you always in the habit of cooking with a thousand dollar bottle of wine?’
“Her face was priceless,” Victoria said. “She had no clue.”
Gotti, who died of cancer in 2002 while serving a life prison sentence on charges of murder and racketeering, loved his sauce.
But the Dapper Don wouldn’t settle for any cheap Chianti. He reportedly savored Rémy Martin Louis XIII Cognac (current retail price: upwards of $3,400) before heading off to prison in 1992. He also built up a prized collection of wine that is wowing experts.
Some three dozen of his bottles are now up for sale at the Long Island City wine shop Enoteca LIC. “I was completely blown away,” said Tony D’Aiuto, the shop’s owner and Junior’s criminal-defense attorney, recalling the moment he first saw the bottles in the wine cellar of Junior’s Long Island home. “These are some of the best wines in the world.” (Junior served prison time for racketeering in 1999.)
Among them are nine Pétruses, four Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Grands Echezeaux, and several Rothschilds, going for from $1,800 to $9,500 a bottle. He already sold one Pétrus for more than $5,000, and said that Junior is donating proceeds from the consignment to charity.
“They’re a piece of living history. You can’t get these wines anywhere else in the world — I don’t care if you’re a billionaire, trillionaire or zillionaire. You can’t buy a John Gotti wine unless you come to my store and buy it,” said D’Aiuto who also owns nearby Levante. “So there’s that unicorn factor.”
Wine expert Mark Oldman agreed. “Wine is part and parcel of the mobster culinary experience. In a way, if you buy Gotti wine, there’s an element like, ‘I’m drinking like Gotti.’
“It’s almost like Capone’s gun — there’s this historical resonance to it that captivates both wine lovers and history lovers,” said the Manhattan oenophile, who runs virtual wine tastings. “There’s a premium on that.”
Per Oldman, “The two vintages of the Pétrus are the most valuable bottles [in the collection] . . . 1970 was a marvelous year in Bordeaux.”
As for Gotti’s bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Grands Echezeaux from 1983, Oldman said: “DRC is the top producer of burgundy in the world. It’s where burgundy lovers fall on their knees and pray to the gods . . . Burgundy has shot through the roof in the last 10 or 15 years.”
Each bottle comes with a certificate of authenticity from Junior. “We know these wines were in the Gotti collection,” said D’Aiuto, adding that many of the bottles were gifts to Gotti from friends and associates.
Gotti gifted his daughter a bottle of Lafite, which she keeps in a glass case and says she’ll never open; D’Aiuto also doesn’t expect that many Gotti wine buyers will uncork theirs.
“I think it’s more of a trophy thing,” said D’Aiuto. “A piece of living history.”
Here, Oldman weighs in on Gotti’s finest vintages:
Petrus 1970, $7,875, and 1982, $9,500
“The two vintages of the Petrus are the most valuable bottles [in the collection]. For someone who wants to make a good impression, it’s hard to do better.”
Domaine de la Romanee Conti Grands Echezeaux 1983, $ 6,200
“With this wine, you’re talking apex producer, and burgundy is the world’s most expensive wine [already],” Oldman explained. “And it’s from an expensive year.”
Château Lafite Rothschild 1983, $3,250
“The Lafite is very valuable and very famous,” said Oldman. “You don’t have to be a wine lover to know this — this is a trophy wine. It’s like owning the Mercedes or BMW of wine.”