The New York Times over the weekend had a fascinating story about Sherry-Lehmann, the iconic wine retailer, written by columnist James B. Stewart, that focuses on how far the business has fallen.
"One of the world’s most prolific sellers of high-end wines, Sherry-Lehmann introduced Americans to Dom Pérignon Champagne in 1947 and the famed Bordeaux Petrus in the 1960s. Its clientele ranged from celebrities (like Greta Garbo and Mick Jagger) to billionaires (like the Bass brothers of Texas) to run-of-the-mill wine lovers (like me). Thanks to online sales, it served customers all over the country.
"Yet nearly nine decades after its founding, Sherry-Lehmann faces a crisis.
"Earlier this year, Sherry-Lehmann’s liquor license expired and the store closed. It owes the state $2.8 million in unpaid sales taxes. Dozens of wholesalers have told the state liquor authority that Sherry-Lehmann is delinquent on payments. Many have stopped delivering.
"The problems, however, go deeper. Sherry-Lehmann has failed to deliver well over $1 million of wine to customers who paid in advance, according to internal records reviewed by the New York Times and interviews with customers and former employees.
"In addition, customers of Wine Caves, a storage business run by Sherry-Lehmann’s owners, have repeatedly tried and failed to get their wine out of storage, according to a customer and former employees. Four former employees said they believed that Sherry-Lehmann was improperly selling rare bottles from Wine Caves to other customers. A top executive at the auction house Sotheby’s warned at least one client that his bottles stored at Wine Caves were at risk.
"The secretive world of high-end wine has periodically been rocked by scandal, often involving fake wine and fraudulent sales of rare vintages, but never involving a name as venerable as Sherry-Lehmann."
The piece is a fascinating exposé, and it just feels like indictments and prison terms are not too far down the road.
You can read the entire piece here.