Wine Spectator 
June 15, 2001
Collecting
A regular feature of Wine Spectator Magazine
McNees cellar.

Programmed for Wine
Rick McNees fuses his love for computers with a taste for Bordeaux
By Joseph Robbins

In 1977, Rick McNees got hooked on wine when he shared a bottle of Chateau Latour 1961 with a computer associate-cum-wine mentor while they were traveling together on business. 

"The Latour evolved through the night and had so much depth and sophistication that over the course of (several) minutes the wine would unfold and reveal more dimensions," says McNees. "I just knew it was (more) special, fascinating and different than anything I had experienced."

Today, McNees-vice president of corporate development for CyberSafe, a computer and network security firm*- is still mixing business with pleasure. As a sideline, McNees develops Web sites for some Napa wineries, including Del Dotto, Elan and Clark-Claudon. "Essentially, I design, publish, and manage their websites to make sure they're operational," he says. These contacts have helped him compile a "pretty respectable collection" of Napa wines from the 1990s.

McNees, 48, started collecting seriously in the early 1980s and has amassed a 1,800 bottle collection, which he keeps at his home in Naperville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.  Most of his wines are Bordeaux. California reds are next in line, with Australian and Rhone wines rounding out the mix. McNees shops for wine online and credits the Web with changing the wine industry, because it has made information about particular wines more accessible. 

His enthusiasm for the Web should come as no surprise; McNees was an early proponent of the Internet. In 1974, McNees began working for Johnson & Johnson, then later went on to become the first non-engineer to sell computers for Hewlett-Packard. In 1984, at the beginning of a 12-year stint at software firm Micro Focus. McNees witnessed the emergence of the Internet, "I put my department and operations on the Internet very early on," says McNees. "We just knew (that) it was going to be big and (that we) needed to prepare for it."

Back wall of Rick's cellar.

Bordeaux large format bottles.

Signature large format bottles commemorating McNees kids' birth-years.

Rick in corner of cellar; cases of vintage Bordeaux in the rear.  Rick and selection of large format bottles (below).

  McNees' selection of large format bottles.Perhaps looking ahead is also key to McNees' collecting philosophy. In the late 1980s, during a visit to Sam's Wine & Liquors in Chicago, McNees got an idea from the store's collection of big bottles. He decided to buy Imperials of Chateau Latour and Leoville Las Cases 1981, along with a horizontal selection of wines from the 1981 vintage to  honor the birth year of his daughter, Erin. Over time, he would do the same for his sons, Ryan, Sean and Alec. His strategy was to pick a producer from the vintage of each of their birth years, then acquire a selection of large-format bottles to commemorate that year. He would then follow up with a vertical collection of the same producer, and bring a selection of different wines from that year into the mix.

The year of Ryan's birth is commemorated with 1982s from chateaus Palmer, Figeac and Ducru Beaucaillou; Sean's birth year is remembered with 1985s from chateaus Leoville Las Cases, Palmer and Lynch-Bages. But selecting wine for Alec, born in 1990 wasn't an easy task. 


"Wine Spectator's wines of the the year from 1993 to 1995 were all 1990 vintages, so I have a case of Penfold's Grange Hermitage 1990, and a selection of Caymus Special Select and Latour from that vintage," says McNees, who revels in the happy coincidence that all his children were born in years of good wine vintages. "People regularly ask me if I'm giving these bottles to the kids when they reach drinking age," McNees laughs. "More likely, we'll have a great tasting to send them off!"
 
According to McNees, economical buying is what makes or breaks a collection. "In the off years of Bordeaux, I focus on what seems to be a good product that year," he says. "The last couple of years especially, I've bought Napa wines because I didn't think the Bordeaux were as good quality-wise, and their prices have escalated. "I buy what I consider the best wine for the money."
 
 
McNees doesn't keep his wine knowledge to himself. In 1999, he created a Web site, www.McNees.org/winesite,  offering links to winegrowing regions and producers, and a collection of sound files that pronounce the names of different regions and varietals. He hopes to offer an online cellar-manager, which would automatically keep collectors informed about swings in the values of their wines. "My Web site is all about my interest in wine, photography and travel, and of course computers," says McNees. "And what better way to combine my passions than to share my experiences with friends and other interested parties."

(C) Wine Spectator Magazine

Joseph Robbins is a freelance writer based in Montana

Note: *Today, Rick is Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for RiverGlass, Inc. (www.riverglassinc.com) headquartered in the suburban Chicago.
Selections of Rick's birth year horizontal and vertical collections and large format bottles.
Chateau Palmer McNees kid's birth years horizontal on Rick's WineSite
Horizontal selection of 1981 Bordeaux Vertical selection of Chateau Palmer magnums Horizontal selection of large format 1981 wines  Rick and 9 liter SALMANAZER
Vertical Selection of Dunn Cabernet Sauvignons
Actual archive link from Wine Spectator Magazine.
Friends' cellars - AJ, Bill C, Rick C., Dr. Dan, Lyle, Rick M, Sonny, TRR, and others.
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