Inside the Wine Cellars of Dr. Gordon Ku

James Ardis
Published on

Sotheby’s presents wine collected by the Singaporean doctor over 50 years

Dr. Gordon Ku and Dr. Gloria Loke. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Dr. Gordon Ku and Dr. Gloria Loke. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Dr. Gordon Ku began collecting wine while studying in London in the 1970s. He believed the wine made for good company on rainy London weekends, and he brought his new passion back to Singapore with him.

About ten years later, Dr. Ku invested in his first wine cellar, which he built below the staircase of his two-story house. The scope of his collection would eventually require three cellars throughout the house, one emerging by the pool and another accessible only through a secret door in the living room. 

“Our father would go into the cellars each time before we went out for a family dinner,” Dr. Ku’s children reminisce. “[He’d] return triumphant, eyeglasses misted in the transition from cellar-chill to tropical-heat, with a bottle (or more usually) of wine.”

On September 4th, 2020, Sotheby’s Hong Kong will present over 800 lots from Dr. Ku’s wine collection. Adam Bilbey, the head of the auction house’s Wine Asia department, notes that while Dr. Ku enjoyed the classic regions, his curiosity led him to collect from vineyards around the world.

Bottled wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Bottled wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Featured in this event is over 60 lots from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. The Burgundy estate has switched hands between the French elite many times over the centuries. In the 1760s, it triggered a bidding war between the chief mistress of Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour, and Louis François I, Prince of Conti. Decades later, one of Napoleon’s generals, Louis Liger-Belair, would buy up much of the estate’s vineyards.

Among the lots representing Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in this event are seven bottles of Richebourg 1999 (estimate: HKD 150,000 – 200,000 / USD 19,350 – 25,800). Stephen Tanzer of the International Wine Cellar notes the 1999 Richebourg’s “black plum, blackberry, violet, minerals, earth and flowers, plus an exotic suggestion of blood orange.” Burghound’s Allen Meadows calls it “one of the great vintages” for Richebourg and recommends letting it mature until at least 2024. Bidders can also consider a bottle of Romanée Conti 1990 (estimate: HKD 130,000 – 180,000 / USD 16,770 – 23,220).

Bottled wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Bottled wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Another Burgundy winery highlighted in this event is Domaine Leflaive. The domaine comprises over 50 of the auction’s lots, including 11 bottles of the Chevalier Montrachet 2005 (estimate: HKD 48,000 – 65,000 / USD 6,200 – 8,400). Wine & Spirits notes that the grapes that year were harvested in ideal conditions, based on the wind and sunshine. Burghound describes its “pure and still somewhat reserved nose of rose petal, anise, white peach and pear aromas that also display subtle hints of stone and smoke.”

Bottled wines of Domaine Leflaive. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Bottled wines of Domaine Leflaive. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.

After Dr. Ku unearthed his chosen bottle from one of his many cellars, the family took it to their restaurant of choice. At the Italian or French or Cantonese restaurant, Dr. Ku would make sure each course was properly paired with the wine.

His children recall that at many of these dinners he would tell them “to open a bottle to share at the dinner table is a profound act. It is an expression of love, generosity and conviviality.”

Now, with this Sotheby’s event, Dr. Ku’s children hope that whoever purchases these wines will drink them “surrounded by the people in the world they care the most about.”

Dr. Gordon Ku and Dr. Gloria Loke. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Dr. Gordon Ku and Dr. Gloria Loke. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The live auction begins at 10:30 PM EDT on September 4th, 2020. Collectors can view each of the lots and register to bid on the Sotheby’s website. Hong Kong tax for these lots has been fully paid for by the auction house. However, international bidders will be responsible for duties and taxes outside the country.