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IRS Auctions Felon's Cellar to Napa Valley Winery Owner

Ryan Isaac
Posted: December 10, 1999

The wine collection confiscated from former Napa Valley wine merchant David Wayne Oppenheimer sold to a single bidder at the Nov. 8 auction held by the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service. George Altamura, a Napa Valley businessman with winery and restaurant interests, purchased the entire 1,000-bottle collection for a total of $30,500.

Oppenheimer is currently serving a prison sentence of seven years and three months for conspiracy to distribute cocaine, among other crimes. His Napa home and his wine collection -- which highlights Bordeaux, Burgundy and California Cabernet and Chardonnay -- were forfeited as part of his sentencing.

Altamura, a part-owner of Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa, won the bidding on the first lot, which consisted of French wines, but after the four individual lots were offered, the entire collection was put up for bid at a starting price greater than the sum of the individual lots. "I got the French wines, then I realized what I was doing, so I shut up for the next bids," he said.

Bidding for the whole collection began around $26,000. "I knew it'd be a good value," said Altamura, who also owns Napa Knolls Winery and Strack Winery. His son, Frank, is the sole proprietor of Altamura Vineyards & Winery, also in Napa Valley.

Altamura said that he purchased the wines as an investment, with the intention of donating some of the wines to charity. He is a founder of Hands Across the Valley, a star-studded Napa Valley wine auction held at Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery to benefit the area's hungry, and he plans to contribute some of the newly acquired wine to that cause.

"A lot of people think the Napa Valley is rich, rich, rich, but there are a lot of farm workers who don't work year-round," he remarked. "You've got to take care of your own."

  • Dec. 7, 1999
    Wine Cellar to be Auctioned by the IRS

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