How Hollywood turned a film executive into a wine collector
Richard Suckle is a Philadelphia native who got his start in Hollywood in the mid-1990s as a production executive on movies including Twelve Monkeys starring Bruce Willis and Fallen starring Denzel Washington. He later produced two hugely successful family films: Scooby Doo and Scooby Doo 2. His most recent film was The International, a thriller that starred Clive Owen. This member of Shafer’s Hillside Select list spoke with us recently about his other love – that of wine and wine collecting.
Were you around wine growing up in Philadelphia?
I had almost no exposure to wine. My parents had a cabinet with Cutty Sark and a few other dusty bottles, but it was just for company.
When did you discover wine?
In 2001 I was in Australia filming the first Scooby Doo movie and (actor) Matthew Lillard was into wine big time – you know, the zealotry of the newly converted. He’d just gotten married at Kenwood in Sonoma and really talked up wine and wine country. It was good timing because here I was on the verge of getting engaged. And I’m listening to Matt thinking, ‘if I’m going to ask my family and my friends to travel all this way to a wedding, why not ask them to go somewhere really great?’
When I got back to California, (my wife) Maia and I drove up to Napa and Sonoma, started visiting wineries and trying wines and I really jumped in full force. We just drove up Silverado Trail and stopped everywhere and tried everything.
Did you ever take a wine course or join a tasting group?
No, because I got some great education from a friend, Robert Kamen, who’s a screenwriter (wrote Karate Kid, A Walk in the Clouds, Taken, and others). He bought a vineyard in Sonoma in the ‘80s and now he has a winery called Kamen Estate, really amazing wines. It was Robert who really helped me to see the subtler differences between wines and helped me get into it hard core.
It sounds like collecting started for you with Cabernets?
Yes, it was all California Cabs, Napa and Sonoma. I went from trying everything to that stage of being very specific, very picky, about what I wanted to start buying – getting into that whole thing of ‘how do I get my hands on that?’ Like Harlan or Shafer. Got very picky about which wine I was going to have with dinner. One night it might have to be Rubicon. Nothing else would do. It all had to be just a certain way.
How has collecting changed for you over time?
I don’t hoard it, pretending to buy wine as an investment. I buy it because I want to drink it. Also, I really do have a great time now collecting all kinds of wines – Bordeaux, Australian wines like Penfolds, Chilean wines are interesting to me, South African. I’ll go online and read up about the wines of a region and start tracking them down. Lately it’s been New Zealand. I have to say, though, the backbone of what I collect will probably always be California Cabernets. That was my first love; it’s tied in with where I was engaged, where I was married: so many great, deeply-felt personal memories.
How do you store your wines?
I’ve got a cellar at home where I have 200 to 250 bottles and off-site storage for another 500.
How do you decide which bottles you want easy access to at home?
I just try to keep a good mix at home, a little of everything. But my off-site storage is only a mile from my house so it’s not a huge thing to get there. I try to visit about once a month and I’m always nicely surprised by things I find tucked in the back that I’d forgotten about.
Has wine ever shown up in any of your films?
Not yet, but I’d like to bring it in sometime, if it was an organic part of the story. I’d love that.