The first installment of the Wally's Auctions sale of Roy Welland's wine collection, held in New York in September and raising $6.6 million, was going to be a tough act to follow. But on Nov. 21 and 22, at the sale's second part, in Los Angeles, Wally's pulled off another impressive showing. Part II brought in $5.6 million, exceeding its presale high estimate of $5.5 million. Together, the 3,400 lots of Parts I and II of the Welland sale fetched $12.2 million, with a 98.8 percent sell-through rate.
"Quite a crescendo," Michael Jessen, CEO and president of Wally's Auctions, told Wine Spectator. "The collection got people's attention. The market right now is just so hot for these great Burgundy producers."
Welland, who gained success as a financial trader and a competitive bridge player, endeared himself to the wine community when he opened Cru restaurant in New York in 2004. The foundation of the restaurant's Grand Award-winning cellar was Welland's personal wine collection, particularly rich in rare Burgundy wines. (His passion for Burgundy led him to purchase a parcel of the Chambertin vineyard, which he leases to Domaine Dujac in exchange for wine.)
On Friday evening and Saturday morning, 350 guests convened at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. As Wally’s inaugural Los Angeles auction, back on the turf where the company made its name as a retailer, the event was something of a homecoming. Chef José Andres served dinner (and, according to Wally's, bid on some auction lots), joined by Wally's owners Christian Navarro and Armand, Maurice and Paul Marciano. Welland himself stopped by, and, Jessen said, "really seemed pretty excited with the results."
Although the Los Angeles sale included enviable wines from Bordeaux, California, Champagne and the Rhône, it was Burgundy—rare bottlings, in large quantities, and with pristine provenance—that propelled the auction. The evening's single top lot, at $44,400, featured 12 bottles of Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair La Romanée 2005. Nineteen lots from Domaine René Engel grossed $73,080, over a high estimate of $40,300.
J.F. Coche-Dury, a cult Burgundy producer with increasing cachet in collecting circles, saw a number of new record prices set for its wines, including its Corton-Charlemagne 2004 and Mersault Les Perrières 2002, both of which rang in at $2,880 per bottle. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair also set new world records.
"There was quite a bit of attraction to the fact that not only was this a great cellar with great provenance, but ultimately, an offering like this had never been made before," said Jessen, noting that many of these Burgundy wines "are not very well represented at auction, or very difficult to find in quantity."
That Welland chose to consign his collection with Wally's is a boon for the auction house, which just opened in 2013. Already, Jessen said, the achievement of the Welland sale has generated interest from other wine world insiders, and he will soon announce the sale of the collection of "another extremely prominent wine collector," who, unlike Welland, has elected to remain anonymous. This upcoming sale "is not quite the scale in total of the Welland collection," said Jessen, "but it's actually pretty close."
A selection of wines from Welland's collection remains available at retail, and about 100 lots will go on the block at Wally's December auction in New York.