Tasting notes, varietals, grapes - anything related to wine
In the last 48 hours I have confirmed from multiple sources that Rudy Kurniawan is once again offering millions of dollars worth of wine for auction -- this time at an auction to be held in London on February 8 by Spectrum Wine Auctions (based in Orange County California) and Vanquish Wine Ltd of London. Mr. Kurniawan's wines were officially consigned through an agent -- one Antonio Castanos -- who is known to have acted on Mr. Kurniawan's behalf in selling wines to third parties since the infamous Acker Merrall auction held on April 25, 2008 in New York. At that auction, a large number of Domaine Ponsot burgundies were withdrawn on the day of the sale at the request of Domaine Ponsot, which said that all of the bottles in question were fraudulent.
I was first alerted to the problem when two East Coast burgundy collector friends of mine asked if I had seen the February 8 Spectrum/Vanquish auction catalog. They were concerned, based on the fact that auction catalog contained numerous old vintages of high value DRC wines and first growth bordeaux, many in magnum, jeroboam and even bigger glass formats, that Mr Kurniawan was once again offering wines for sale. Upon further inquiry, multiple sources confirmed that Mr. Kurniawan is the source of the wines in question, including, late today, the auction house itself after I called to ask questions and confronted them with the information I had obtained. I also provided Spectrum with a lengthy list of DRC wines (the only wines from the catalog that I examined) whose authenticity I question based upon apparent discrepancies on the labels, strip labels and neck labels when compared with bottles I have personally owned in the past, and bottles sold via other auction houses. I also reported some discrepancies concerning the bottle numbers which appeared on some of the DRC bottles, information that one large bottle of DRC bore the same bottle number which had been sold twice previously at Acker Merrall auctions, including the Cellar II auction, and information that the case of 1966 DRC Romanee Conti in the auction had been previously pulled out of an auction catalog by another Southern California auction house on the grounds that its authenticity was in doubt. I will continue to look at the catalog for other discrepancies as time permits. Given the large number of problems I observed on the DRC bottles, and the fact that Spectrum and Vanquish elected to proceed with the sale without disclosing that Mr. Kurniawan is the key seller in the auction, late this afternoon I demanded that Spectrum and Vanquish halt the sale of Mr. Kurniawan's wines. I have not yet received a response. The relevant decision maker is allegedly on his way to London to attend the sale as this is written.
As most of you are aware, Mr. Kurniawan sold tens of millions of dollars worth of wine in the auction market since at least 2004, including over $26 million in two auctions held at Acker Merrall in 2006 referred to as "The Cellar I" and "The Cellar II." Acker Merrall eventually refunded millions of dollars to wine collectors who purchased wines in those auctions and demanded refunds on the grounds that they believed the bottles they purchased were not authentic. Acker subsequently obtained a $10.4 million consent judgment against Mr. Kurniawan.
There are at least two known prior instances in which bottles offered for sale by Mr. Kurniawan were withdrawn from auctions at the request of the domaines whose names appeared on the labels because the wines were not believed to be authentic. In addition to the Domaine Ponsot wines in the April 25 2008 Acker auction, a lot of six magnums of 1982 Le Pin which was offered by Christie's Los Angeles in its April 27, 2007 auction catalog (and featured on the cover), was withdrawn at the request of Chateau Le Pin. Well known wine collector William Koch has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Mr. Kurniawan alleging fraud and other claims in connection with several bottles of wine which Mr. Koch purchased at auction which were consigned by Mr. Kurniawan and which Mr. Koch contends were knowingly and fraudulently mislabeled. That litigation remains pending.
I have been told by Spectrum that there are other consignors whose wines appear in the Feb 8 auction in addition to those of Mr. Kurniawan, but I do not have a list of of the lot numbers which belong to other consignors.
Given Mr. Kurniawan's previous history, I find it unbelievable and inexcusable that Spectrum and Vanquish chose to offer Mr. Kurniawan's wines at auction at all -- let alone without publicly disclosing his ownership. Richard Brierley, the Head of Fine Wine at Vanquish, is quite familiar with Mr. Kurniawan and his history by virtue of his prior employment at Christie's New York. The bottom line is -- BUYER BEWARE!
Oxidized Burgs Wiki
Thank you for this, Don. I have not previously heard of Vanquish wines. Have you contacted the Mandarin Oriental hotel where this taking place? if not I think they should be informed. I should be happy to do this but feel that you may be able to forward to them some of your own correspondence more effectively!It certainly looks most unusual to say the least.
Vanquish is new -- at least to the wine auction scene. Their company bio says they started as a wine retailer in 2004. This is apparently their first wine auction.
Here is an excerpt of Richard's bio from the Vanquish website: "Prior to joining Vanquish Richard was working at Christies for seven years as the Vice President, Head of North American Wine Sales." Richard was the head of North American Wine Sales for Christies at the time of the April 27, 2007 auction by Christies of Rudy Kurniawan's wines in Los Angeles, and during the period from 2004 though 2008 when Mr. Kurniawan sold wines in multiple auctions held in New York at various auction houses, including Acker Merrall, Zachy's and likely including Christies. I know for sure that Mr. Kurniawan attended tastings at events at Christies NY during Mr. Brierly's tenure. I'm not clear as to precisely when Richard left Christies NY. It was either just before or just after the last two known Rudy Kurniawan auctions which were by Christie's NY in October and November of 2009. It is beyond dispute that Mr. Brierley knows Rudy Kurniawan and knows his auction history quite well. That is one of the things I find so disturbing here.
I haven't contacted anyone from the hotel, but if you'd be willing to forward them a copy of what I've posted above, I think they'll get the picture.
Oxidized Burgs Wiki
For anyone interested in seeing for themselves, here is a link to download a PDF copy of the auction catalog: http://www.spectrumwine.com/downloads/c ... wnload.pdf
Oxidized Burgs Wiki
Thanks Don for the public service here.
I am not in the market for those wines but those who are need this kind of information.
Act without artifice, work without servility, savor the unflavored.
Make the small great, make much of little.
Respond to hatred with grace.
Lao Tzu "Tao Te Ching"
Thanks again for the heads up....
Important given the wines that someone stands up for their provenance....or in this case, their distinct lack of....
Perhaps it's time to send a clear message.
In any other industry, such behavior would not be tolerated at all.
Very poor form also ultimately by the auction house, which will end up sullying their name because they haven't actually done the sort of due diligence which should really be mandatory in this situation.....
Amateurs at best.....
Many thanks Don.
Perhaps we can also read something into 'why would US companies ship wine all the way to London to be auctioned under an auctioneer's banner that no-one in London has ever heard of, rather than the same in a place of their own legal jurisdiction?' Or maybe it's better to replace that final word with 'liability'.
I think I'll just sit back, relax and watch the impending car crash. Reminds me of Flounder's great line, "Oh Boy, this is gonna be great."
Everyone should be careful of libel, too! Far different standard for that in the UK, versus US. (another possible motivation?)
-Brady (Brady D on CT)
Rudy..Rudy....where have all the accolytes gone? There used to be so many on these boards...following, receiving and defending his shtick ..and him. Where are they now...and what are they saying? Some pretty famous names, too.
Thanks for the head's up, Don...though only of interest theoretically, for me, Don, as I haven't ever bought at auction. I sure wouldn't want to dive in on this one. I might taste soapsuds in the wines, as Kevin did at the dinner in NY on his thread. http://wineberserkers.com/forum/viewtop ... =1&t=61070
Not sure I'd be happy to have been "invited" to that dinner...for many reasons.
Thanks for the Caveat Emptor.
The Wine Cellar
I received a telephone call this morning from Jason Boland, the President of Spectrum. Mr. Boland insisted that Rudy Kurniawan was not a consignor in the auction. I pointed out that technically Antonio Castanos had consigned the wines, but on behalf of Rudy, and that his own employee, who is a “Consignment Director” that I’ve known for many years, had confirmed that information to me. Mr. Boland insisted that the information reported to me was “privileged and confidential” and that the employee who had confirmed that Mr. Kurniawan had consigned wines for the auction through Spectrum was not authorized to tell me this information. Mr. Boland thanked me for providing a detailed list of issues with various lots of the DRC wines, said that Spectrum would further investigate them, and reiterated his view that Mr. Kurniawan is not a consignor in the auction.
About five minutes later I received a call from the Spectrum “Consignment Director,” who told me that he “had been advised to retract” his statements to me yesterday confirming that Mr. Kurniawan has consigned wines for the auction.
One apparent partial correction: In my prior post I related that “the case of 1966 DRC Romanee Conti in the auction had been previously pulled out of an auction catalog by another Southern California auction house on the grounds that its authenticity was in doubt.” That information was reported to me by the auction house in question. I am now informed by a third party that the bottle numbers on the bottles in the two auction catalogs were slightly different but very close in sequence and that the bottles in question have the same Gaja strip labels on them which appear on most of the bottles in the Spectrum sale.
Oxidized Burgs Wiki
Well, I guess I can cross another auction house off the list. Thanks for the heads up.
L I T T L E
Hey look, here's some more Romanee-Conti 1945!
I'm glad the things I can afford to buy are not worth faking...yet. When they start counterfeiting Gallo Family Vineyards SB at $5.99 per magnum I guess I will have a problem. Oh wait... weren't they faking Yellowtail in England? Uh oh...
IMO, this is Tony Bennett at his
Wow, if Spectrum knowing accepted wines from Rudy that are suspect and are trying to hide, or I should say minimize, who's cellar these are coming from and their prior history of possibly being fake, it doesn't bode well for this auction houses' credibility.
I'm a Port drinking fool!
"Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?" - Steve Jobs, 1983
I rather think I might go along. Could be fun.
Just Curious If any bottles found to be fake and the buyer can prove that the house took the wines knowing that this was a possibility and does not disclose this information what liability can they be held accountable for should the buyer want to push it? Would love to get thoughts from the legal guys here.
The Wine Cellar
here's Rudy back in 2002
when he bought the SQN HdR lot for something north of $250 a bottle. (pretty good price as it turns out)
I only buy it these days if it's a full caseload.
Last edited by Claude Kolm on February 4th 2012, 1:27pm, edited 1 time in total.
It does seem odd to host in London.
Ive been to major auctions in London where there have been 5-6 people in the room, even the largest are a world away from (what I read about) the US 'event' auctions.
I wonder how many of the 60 bottles produced of this, the 98 HdR, have been faked? There are nine logged into CT (including my three) and I've personally consumed six bottles which gives us 25% of the total production. Cultwine has another four bottles. That's almost one third of the production in total. One must think that numerous bottles have been consumed. So.....are there fakes of these out there? If none.....than it's a smaller world than I could have imagined.
Just to reiterate the facts from my phone conversation with Don. Rudy is not a consignor in this auction and has not been a consignor with Spectrum since we have started. The London auction is made up of many consignors not just a single consignment and includes wines from all over the world.
All the wine in this auction went through an elevated inspection process by our experts before being placed into the sale.
The wine is also available to be inspected in London by prospective bidders.
Great idea, Tom. Please report back. And do tell us what you bought!.
-- Lew --
Let's not be cute here, Mr. Boland. Are you prepared to state, categorically, that the indirect source of these wines is not Mr. Kurniawan? Unless you are prepared to make such a statement, you should be cognizant of the fact that there are gobs and gobs of lawyers on this BB who are perfectly adept at seeing through what we professionally refer to as "negative pregnants." The words a person chooses to state, and the words that person chooses not to state, must be read together and are frequently better indications of the truth that the simple literal dictionary definition. I have no horse in this race, I am not a fan of Burgundy, I have never had DRC and I do not know any of the players in this drama. But I have known how to read for something like 55 years and, from my reading, your statement raises more questions than it answers.
Mr. Boland: Thank you for appearing in this thread to respond to the concerns. Three questions off the top of my head, if I may:
1. Regardless of who the official "consignor" is, did any of the bottles in this auction ever have ANY connection at all to Rudy Kurniawan? For example, did he ever own, broker, or attempt to see any of these bottles, directly or indirectly?
2. To your knowledge, were any of the bottles in this auction ever been turned down previously by other auction houses?
3. Looking at the auction catalog, it appears that a striking number of lots (or groups of lots) have essentially no information about provenance--number of owners, where the wine was stored, how it was stored, etc. Is there some reason why the auction catalog omits such standard information about provenance?
Thanks in advance,
"Bruce you are correct."--Andrew Kaufman, 3/24/13.
Just saw Rudy at Bouchon in Beverly hills with a 3L of haut brion. Also some assorted mags and 3l's of burg/champagne.
Curious that they came without corks ;)
But didn't you know? Poor Mr. Kurniawan got duped on the Ponsot Clos St. Denis: http://www.latimesmagazine.com/2008/10/wine-fraud.html
Well, this response officially puts Spectrum on my list of places to never do business with. Unless you think we're all morons, you couldn't possibly think that a non-response response would be effective here. This response is now probably the single most convincing piece of evidence that the OPs assertions are true.
I was just about to post this link, Bob, and characterize it as a fluff piece. Here is my favorite part...
From the article... Kurniawan got duped. How? As the saying goes, lust makes you stupid. Was that it? Kurniawan tried to explain: “I tasted the wines with many experienced and respected collectors, as well as winemakers and the man who is in my opinion the best Burgundy critic and taster, Meadows. All of us thought the wines were exceptional and that they were what they claimed to be. I apologize for my ignorance, but I consider myself a collector and a drinker, not a wine historian. I had asked a couple of people who know a lot more than I do about Burgundy. The discrepancy even escaped those people.”
BTW, the endorsement of the wines by Allen meadows is not factual, according to Allen's own detailed posts here. His name is being dragged through this sordid affair for the convenience of the others.
-- Lew --
I know little of the market at this level but I am utterly bemused by the condition of the labels pictured in the catalogue. I'm very familiar though with Burgundy from all sorts of UK cellars from the Percy Fox era and I just don't understand how they can be so new looking, but this could easily be my ignorance.
In my post above, I mentioned that Burghound had fully aired his involvement in the Ponsot debacle here on W/B. I now believe it was on eRP that he did so. In any event, he described his tasting with Rudy and others of the old Ponsot Clos Saint-Denis bottles, became suspicious of them, did some research, contacted the domaine, and this was how Laurent Ponsot learned the fakes were about to be auctioned.
-- Lew --
Lew, it was here actually. forum/viewtopic.php?p=143831#p143831
-Eric LeVine (ITB)
It rhymes with wine...