Last week, I read an article in Fortune Magazine about the Federal Bureau of Investigation pursuing charges against Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits in New York. The FBI issued a search warrant after an article in the New York Times reported “customers and former employees have complained about missing wine.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation searched Park Avenue wine retailer Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits Tuesday as part of an investigation into the 89-year-old vintner. Sherry-Lehmann opened its doors in 1934 after the famous Prohibition bootlegger, Jack Aaron took over Sherry Wine and Spirits Company in New York City.  The store, which is located at 62nd and Madison, is located within the Louis Sherry building. Both the store and the building obtained its name from Louis Sherry who owned a store and a restaurant within the building. 

Louis Sherry
Louis Sherry

Sherry-Lehman worked not only as a importer and sales, but created a separate business identity as a wine storage facility. The FBI claims that it is here that the crime took place. In something like a pyramid scheme, Sherry-Lehman is charged with  illegally selling clients’ stored bottles to other customers, Sherry-Lehman, of course, denies all charges, stating that the delays on delivery are due to outside factors such as covid-19 and tariffs.

According to the NY Post, the 88-year-old vintner is in danger of closing its doors as it has racked up a $3.1 million sales tax bill to New York state. There are also several law-suits against the store, including one filing  declaring that $800,000 worth of worth of wine has not been delivered. Statements made by employees, may back this suit up, stating that the decade old owners “allegedly have fallen into the conspicuous habit of treating themselves to the store’s top-shelf wines.” The article continues that CEO Shyda Gilmer and Kris Green frequently snatched booze from the shelves as they went out to dine at swanky eateries nearby such as Nobu 57, La Goulue and The Post House.”

Kris Green (left) and Shyda Gilmer
Kris Green (left) and Shyda Gilmer are apparently targets of the FBI investigation.
Eugene Gologursky

What are Futures?

The concept of futures was introduced to me way back when I visited Walla Walla for the first time.  My husband and I were walking around downtown and we noticed a tasting room. The door was locked, but there was someone inside. We knocked and asked if we could do a tasting. The gentleman inside asked if we were the (insert name here.) We were not, and I mentally ran the options in my head of lying. Ultimately, I decided to be truthful and answered no. He then said that he must have been blown off, and since he had a tasting set up, we might as well come in.

We went through the tasting and fell in love with the wine. Afterwards, we asked to purchase a few bottles and were told, that the bottles we tasted were not for sale, but we could purchase future bottles. This took us a moment to comprehend and after a debate, we agreed.

It turned out to be a good decision as we accidentally stumbled upon Christophe Baron of Cayuse Vineyards. After returning home, his wine was rated in Wine Spectator with several of his bottles receiving 99 pts. Today, some people have waited over ten years to get off the waitlist and finally acquire his wine.  

Christophe Baron
© Cayuse Vineyards

Then came my introduction to Bordeaux Wines and en primeur.  I learned how there is a huge benefit to purchasing wine before it is actually available to take home. Returning to the Sherry-Lehman debacle, the wines that the people purchased have drastically increased in price. They did not purchase $800,000 in wine, yet the the wine they have yet to receive is now valued at $800,000 and this is what they are suing for… either their wine or the value of the wine today. 

For example, a 1984 Mouton Rothschild was approximately $350 when it was released. Today, if you wanted to purchase the same bottle it would cost you about $3,200. That is quite an increase and why people buy futures. As the quote by Mike Troiano says, “A thing is worth what someone is willing to pay for it.” There are a lot of people out there willing to pay big bucks for prestigious wines.

I purchase Bordeaux futures and I have seen the wine that is now in my cellar increase in value. But here’s the rub; I don’t ever plan on selling it. So although there are people willing to pay for higher priced wine, the reverse is true; if you are never going to sell it, then how do you determine the value? 

In some situations, it takes years for the wine to be released. For example, I am still waiting on nine bottles from the 2020 vintage; Grand Puy Lacoste, Clerc Milon  and Domaine de Chevalier Rouge. In full disclosure, I have to keep returning to my Google Drive to remember which bottles I purchased and which I have not received yet. All three of these vintages have increased in value already, yet I have no idea when these wines will come in. If we return to the Sherry-Lehman debacle, what if the facility I purchased them from never send them to me? They have had my money for years. How do I get my money back. But more importantly, they are robbing me of the pleasure of consuming these wines. How do you place a value on that? 

So, I ask you.. Do you purchase futures? Does this Sherry-Lehman lawsuit make you worry about your wine and if it will ever come? 


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