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More Details About Kurniawan’s Alleged Counterfeiting Operation

2012 March 9
by Mike

Federal prosecutors submitted a letter today to Judge Denise L. Cote of the U.S. District Court for the southern district of New York asking that Kurniawan be denied bail because they consider him a flight risk. The letter includes more details concerning Kurniawan’s alleged counterfeiting activities.  It states the following:

“Yesterday, the FBI searched Kurniawan’s home pursuant to a judicial search warrant and found an elaborate counterfeiting operation. The agents found and seized, among other things, the following:

• Thousands of printed wine labels to many of the most expensive wines in the world, such as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Chateau Petrus. A photograph of some of the labels that were seized is attached as Exhibit A.

• Hundreds of corks, foil wrappers used to cover corks, and wax used to seal corks.  A photograph of some of the foil wrappers and labels is attached as Exhibit B.

• Scores of rubber stamps for vintages (years in which a wine was made), the names of wineries, and other identifying features found on wine bottles. A photograph of some of the rubber stamps is attached as Exhibit C.

• Glue, stencils, special scissors that cut paper in the particular pattern of certain wine labels.

• A mechanical device used to insert corks into wine bottles.

• Scores of bottles in the preparatory stages of being converted into counterfeit bottles, such as bottles without labels, bottles with inconsistent labeling (for example, bottles with counterfeit labels attached but some of the authentic labels still on the bottle because they had not yet been removed by Kurniawan).

• Bottles of moderately priced California wine with writing on the bottles indicating that the California wines would be used to pass as expensive Bordeaux wines.

• Bottles soaking in the kitchen sink to aid in the removal of the wine labels.

The evidence of Kurniawan’s counterfeiting activities, based on the results of the search of his home alone, is overwhelming.”

You can read the entire letter here.

Update: And here is Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and Exhibit C.

57 Responses leave one →
  1. Michael Schmidt permalink
    March 14, 2012

    Dear Robert Joseph,
    was Hardy Rodenstock ever convicted? I honestly don#t remember. And if he was, I don’t think all his wines were fakes, so some people may have been taken in some of the time, but never all people all of the time. If I were to get involved in such dubious activities, I’d serve the real McCoy to the chosen celebrities and flog the dodgy stuff at auctions. Sadly (for my finacial status) or fortunately (for wine lovers) I lack the criminal energy.

  2. PJB permalink
    March 14, 2012

    Paul Wasserman – I applaud you for your comments! I’m sure that you realize that this could have a negative impact on your family’s business. Kudos to you for speaking out!

    As a fine wine retailer, this type of situation is VERY difficult to for me. Every time that one of these situations arise, it makes it harder to sell back vintages. Also, to be perfectly honest, it may be harder to sell Wasserman wines. Perhaps, we could get the ’10 Mugnier and Vogues at a 50% discount? =)

    Laurent – THANK YOU for your diligence! We need this out of you, so please continue your quest to ferret out the culprits! I sell your current releases, the wines are gone and I no longer think about it… I move on to securing, and selling, the next vintage. If, by some chance, I have the opportunity to sell a back vintages, I’d like to know that the wines are legit., and, that my clients are securing YOUR wines. Merci beaucoup! As strange as it sounds, this is a credit to your work, the fact that somebody wants to counterfeit your wines must mean that they are something special!

    Rudy K – As an American, I firmly believe that you are innocent until proven guilty. If in fact you are innocent, I wish you no harm. If you did create bottles, then shame on you! I’m assuming through Paul Wasserman’s post that you had a great appreciation for wine at one time. If you “faked” bottles, then you have put the entire wine industry in jeopardy…. you have sacrificed my livelihood (fine wine sales) for your own benefit. If, indeed, you did this, the heck with you!

    For the rest of you – try to find the Northern Exposure episode “The Big Feast” … it’s GREAT… Shelly breaks a bottle and creates a fake through tasting notes. Wonderfully funny viewing from a wine lover’s standpoint.

    Rudy K – If you did this… shame on you!

    Retailers/ Distributors/ Consumers – Don’t lose faith in the Wasserman brands. The family has been instrumental in bringing GREAT wines to the US. It is solely due to Becky, Russell and the boys (also Caro) that we have access to some wonderful wines.

    Thoughts?

  3. Frank permalink
    March 13, 2012

    Taking the comments (and the indictment) at face value, we have here a classic case of over-reach turning into obsession turning into addiction turning into criminality.

    I’m sure Bernie Madoff was once a pretty successful broker, on a small scale. He built his reputation as a “genius” and then had to continue generating fantastic returns to justify his reputation, which by now was an essential part of his self-image. Similarly I have never known a case of scientific fraud (and I’ve been a couple degrees away from several) where the perpetrator wasn’t regarded as a “genius,” able to do things that no one else could accomplish.

    When someone is too good to be true, they’re quite often neither.

  4. March 13, 2012

    Mike. Many thanks and congratulations for this fascinating and detailed coverage along with some spellbinding comments.

  5. Jean-Luc permalink
    March 12, 2012

    Like every scandal, this one needed a smoking gun, and in this case, it was the Acker Merrall Ponsot sale that started this. One thing though has always bothered me very much about the handling of this in the first place. Acker knew very well in the days (weeks?) before the sale of Laurent Ponsot’s misgivings about the genuinity of these bottles and still went ahead with the sale. It took Laurent to come personally to the auction for them to take the wines out of the catalogue…

  6. Mike Opdahl permalink
    March 11, 2012

    Scott/Bill,

    Bill, whether or not you wish to question Scott’s accumen insofar as his ability to discern “real” wines from fakes (and I’ll vouch for Scott’s palate (except for Shiraz) & the breadth/depth of his wine experience), I believe that Scott is spot on with his belief that Rudy bought & drank well/sold some % of fakes. I don’t know when he started producing/selling counterfeit bottles. If he followed the Rodenstock model than establishing ones credibility first, followed by non-questioned introduction of some %% of fakes (with a health % of self-induced market manipulation in between (at least thats the theory I’m leaning towards in my book, after about a year of research into the wine auctions/fakes)), than the wines he was buying/drinking/selling in 1998-2003 (4? 5? 6?….not 7) were almost all assuredly real.

    Take it from someone whose professional livelihood depends on one’s ability to produce wine that hits a certain “flavor profile” (or score if you prefer): it isn’t that hard to blend to a style/flavor, especially if price isn’t really an object. Especially if that person has a decent palate, and has lots of experience with a subset of wines that very, very few people are reasonably familiar with (like well under 100 people, worldwide). Heck, and thats if Rudy, like (supposedly) Roddenstock before him actually cared about his ability to blend to “fool the critics”. Roddenstock was, to a certain extent, creating a market that up to that point didn’t really exist, and then capitalizing on it. Roddenstock NEEDED to establish his credibility with both the critics and the British wine/auction press/trade. Rudy didn’t need to–the internet + scuttlebutt + modern wine media established his credibility for him. Scott’s point, which I largely agree with, is that when Rudy was buying literally millions of dollars worth of wine every year, and very publicly to boot, on top of 5+ years of hedonistic escapades, established his credibility, to a certain degree, beyond reproach.

    There are apparently 25 pallets (@56 cases pp = 1300-1400 cases) that Rudy owns (well at least acquired….per the FBI actual ownership might be a bit fuzzy) sitting in a warehouse in Arcadia and hasn’t touched/moved for years. He would occasionally pull 5-15 cases from his pile & take them with him. I believe this is Rudy’s drinking stash…..as to what % of the $25-75m of wine that Rudy sold between 2002 & 2012 were fakes….that is the question that is going to haunt the market for some time.

  7. Scott Manlin permalink
    March 11, 2012

    Bill

    If has nothing to with anything other than simple math. He was buying millions of dollars worth of wines through traditional channels. Auction, broker, retain and from the domaine/chateaux. From what I have gathered his
    acquisitions were greater than his sales. Standa
    to reason that his plan was to acquire and drink real
    and sell fakes. Regardless of any long con strategy, there has got to be a lot of legit wine in his buys and drinks or what is still in his collection. He made his rep on the buy and despite his legendary generosity, I can’t imagine he drank through it. Your theories about his intent and actions completey ignores his acquisition activity. It is that cohort of wine which has high probability of legitimacy.

    As for the rest, it has nothing to do with me.

  8. Bill Klapp permalink
    March 11, 2012

    Scott, I appreciate your clarification re: fraud, but I am not buying your “likely possibility that the vast amounts of wine that he drank and shared were legit and not all or even predominately fake”. Understand that I realize that not every bottle of wine that Rudy touched was fake, but your grasping at that straw in the face of what the man was pretty clearly up to, and making foolishly sweeping statements about his “vast” amounts of genuine wine. Unless this continues to be a thinly veiled defense of your own tasting acumen in the face of association with a shady character, or unless you have some concrete evidence of Rudy’s innocence, I fail to see why you would concern yourself with the “unfairness” of the implication that all wine associated with this guy has been phony. Let the criminal justice system deal with this man’s guilt or innocence, and let us stipulate (as we ex-lawyers like to say) that he drank and served legit wines. But let us also stipulate that that fact instantly becomes irrelevant or, per Mike Opdahl’s take on this, worse, if Rudy’s vaunted generosity was but a tool in his wine fraud toolbox…

  9. Scott Manlin permalink
    March 11, 2012

    Mike (Opdahl)

    Oh no, I was not suggesting his generosity, etc somehow obviates or excuses anything. If proven guilty, and the evidence as shown certainly seems compelling, then of course all of his actions related to wine, etc become suspect. There is no justification for fraud. I was merely referring to the likely probability that the vast amounts of wine that he drank and shared were legit and not all or predominantly fake. I don’t think it is fair to suggest or imply that every bottle consumed with or by him or that he sent to auction were fakes. I feel badly for anyone who holds a fake bottle and I feel badly for anyone holding a legit bottle acquired from him as their provenance is forever tainted and the value of that holding forever impaired and when consumed, there will always be that lingering doubt of authenticity…

    The rest of it is about the wines that are not fake. Sorry if I wasn’t clearer on that. I am in no way excusing or apologizing for anything he has done. I hope this is not true, but I cannot see a reasonable way of that ever being the case.

  10. Mike Opdahl permalink
    March 11, 2012

    Scott, one quibble–your comment that whatever Rudy may have done (forgery-wise) doesn’t invalidate the rest of it (andby that I’m assuming you meant his legendary generousity) doesnt sit well with me under the theory that this entire exercise could well have been part of a long-con; that by establishing his bonafides by spending $$$ entertaining/opening (researching?) he would be able to game the industry to the tune of $$$$$$$$$$$$.

    I’ve spent alot of time on this over the past few months and all the pieces dont add up….though the conspiracy theorist wants this to be a ten year Lex Luthor masterplan, not just a tragic “got in over his head/turn to crime for $$$” dime store novella.

  11. March 11, 2012

    Paul, this is just a note to express my sympathy for you in getting caught up in all this. I can imagine how easily it happened. Some very, very distinguished Brits were taken in by Mr Rodenstock. I also still have happy memories of drinking genuine Burgundy with you, Peter and Becky in the days when it was affordable and not worth faking.

    Laurent, thank you for blowing the whistle. It is very sad that yours has been such a lonely role!

  12. Scott Manlin permalink
    March 11, 2012

    Howard, that was indeed on the experiences I referenced, though the restaurant was in Monterrey Park. I don’t recall any of the wines being opened before we arrived, but then again, it wouldn’t even cross my mind to think about it. That said, I can certainly think of a reasonable reason for opening it, but your explanation is equally plausible. I do recall the 61 Petrus discussion. I though that was kind of strange, I believe he was a partner at Goldman Sachs. If what you posit is indeed the truth, that is quite sad, not only for the invited guests, but several people at that table were among his closest friends.

    Here is my note from that lunch: “78 Domaine Romanee Conti – RC – Methuselah – brown, cloudy color, light in style/appearance, complex aromatics, earth, Asian spice box, sweet, soft texture…subtle with a bit of tart acidity on the clipped finish… Beautiful perfume on the nose….otherwise advanced”

  13. Howard Horwitz permalink
    March 11, 2012

    Scott, I attended at least one of the Rudy-hosted dinners you mention. It was at a Chinese restaurant, in Arcadia, I believe. At the time, it was hard for me to feel Rudy was being anything but generous. He provided all the wine, and he insisted on buying dinner for all. Nothing was asked of us, at least that we were aware of. I kept a list of the wines that were opened, because they were so (by label) so amazing: 1962 Moet Chandon Brut Imperial (Methusaleh); 1978 DRC Romanee-Conti (Methusaleh); 1945 Ch. Gruaud Larose (double magnum); 1976 B. Grivelet Amarouses (Princess Noura) (Methusaleh). There was also an unopened double magnum of 1961 Ch. Petrus, which one guest persuaded Rudy not to open by exclaiming, “why open that bottle for these people?” One or more of the bottles came to the restaurant already opened. The only bottle I KNOW at this point that came already opened was the DRC RC. I thought that was weird but assumed he had wanted it to breathe. While we were drinking the DRC RC, the guest seated to my right kept whispering in my ear, “this is fake.” I didn’t want to believe that as I saw no reason someone who invited us to such a dinner would knowingly provide fake wine. I, like everyone present, just said I liked the wine. In retrospect, there is no doubt it was fake. And in retrospect, it is easy to see we were being used as focus group to see if the concoction in the bottle was of sufficient quality to pass muster. I regret were used in that fashion.

  14. Larry Kantrowitz permalink
    March 11, 2012

    Mike,
    Do you own the rights to these posts? If you do, you may want to start a screenplay..this is good stuff. BTW I get all my Ponsot that I sell from Vineyard Brands via the domaine, the old fashion way.

  15. Jack Bulkin permalink
    March 11, 2012

    Thanks for your thoughts in what must be a most difficult time Paul. I imagine that anyone who attempts to duplicate old wines must be an incredible taster.

  16. Paul Wasserman permalink
    March 11, 2012

    Since I was not only the acting manager of The Wine Hotel, a business owned by Rudy, from 2008 to 2010, but since I also was one of his friends from 2002 or 2003 onwards, I obviously need to make a statement.

    Under my tenure, the Wine Hotel was a storage facility with a small retail operation. The retail operation focused on current vintage wines from France and Italy, most of them under $150 a bottle, with a sweet spot in the $15 to $65 range. We are talking Burgundy, Languedoc, Jura, grower Champagne, Slovenia, Piedmont, Germany and the likes.

    We did sell some of the wine Rudy had been storing in two of his lockers at The Wine Hotel, as well as some that he dropped off or had delivered. With two exceptions I have complete confidence in the wines we sold that belonged to him. I base this confidence first on the fact that I personally unpacked most of the wines from many unopened shipping containers or wood cases, found many packing slips and invoices attesting to their provenance, and second because these wines were quite frankly not the kind of wine that one would expect to be forged. The two exceptions I can recall were both sales to friends of Rudy’s. One was a single bottle of Bordeaux and the other consisted of a few bottles I believe were older Bordeaux and a magnum of white Burgundy. I only remember the magnum of white Burgundy because I had purchased it for the Wine Hotel myself, in France, from a retailer. I did not believe the wines to be counterfeits at the time and I know the magnum of white Burgundy not to be. I have not been working for The Wine Hotel for a while and have no access to its records. I am therefore not in a position to sift through to see if any other sales of potentially counterfeit wine occurred. If there are, they would be minimal. I mention these sales freely because any involvement in the sale of old and rare wine that belonged to Rudy now must be viewed as sale of suspicious wine, but old and rare was not the business The Wine Hotel was engaged in. I will further mention that Rudy’s lockers at The Wine Hotel contained only a handful of the kind of bottles one would suspect today to be classic targets for counterfeiting. An odd bottle from a serious vintage of Petrus, as well as one Lafleur, one or two La Taches, no large formats of such wines. Nothing particularly ancient. There were a few bottles and one magnum of lesser vintage Lafleur, 1995, but I had a chance to try one and thought it excellent.

    The Wine Hotel was a small operation, with smallish sales. A large proportion of its income came from the locker rentals and the rest from sales of normal wine. It never made money as it was never capitalized. In fact it lost money, and Rudy had to put funds in it every month. It was a drain for him not a source of income. This, in part, is why I believed in his innocence: why would he continue to finance an operation that lost money while he was obviously facing financial hardship if it wasn’t to capitalize it as soon as the hardships were over and have a real, legit, wine store? I still can’t put that together with what has now come to light. Part of the original plan for The Wine Hotel was indeed to sell some of Rudy’s old and rare wine. I repeatedly begged for the inventory but it never materialized. There were excuses after excuses from him. For this I am today extremely grateful. I do not know why Rudy protected me and The Wine Hotel from his counterfeiting or even if he did so consciously.

    Approximately two weeks prior to Rudy’s arrest, I was interviewed by two agents from the FBI who were (predictably) curious about my personal and business relationship with Rudy. I responded to all questions truthfully and told the two agents I spoke to about the sales I have just mentioned. I did not believe at the time that Rudy was engaged in counterfeiting but it was my intention to be completely transparent about anything the Wine Hotel had been engaged in. I will admit that at the end of the interview I told the FBI agents that I believed Rudy to be innocent. I would like to point out that The Wine Hotel is not named in the criminal case.

    A part from the matters I have mentioned above, Rudy ran one of his auction purchases, though none of his auction sales, through The Wine Hotel during my tenure. I have personally never been to a wine auction, never bid at a wine auction, never consigned or sold wine at a wine auction except for a single bottle of 2005 Burgundy to an online auction site (for which I have provenance, I personally bought it in Burgundy, and have a receipt). I did position bottles for one photo shoot for the catalog of Rudy’s Cellar I or the Cellar II. For the photo shoot the bottles had already been pulled from Rudy’s Arcadia storage facility and I did not at that time enter his locker. A part from the two wine hotel lockers I was only once in another locker of Rudy’s. This was much before the buzz about counterfeit and I don’t remember seeing anything of concern. I also was present for a couple hours when John Kapon and his crew were checking bottles from Rudy’s cellar. They appeared to be doing a professional job. I did not at that time enter the locker Rudy’s wine was being pulled from. I attended one intimate pre-auction dinner for one of the two ‘The Cellar’ sales as well. I don’t believe I have attended any other pre-auction dinners and I have attended to the best of my recollection one, maybe two pre-auction tastings, but not I believe auctions in which Rudy was consigning. I believe I was at Cru in New York once with Rudy after an auction, but I met up with him there and was not present at the auction. I was at Cru a couple other times with Rudy but I believe that was after a Paulee, and the other time I think after one of the Romanee-Conti dinners.

    Rudy and I were already on infrequent speaking terms when, over his frustration with me, and over my increasing frustration in lack of financing, lack of involvement in the business on his part, profound disagreement over how Rudy was refusing to speak out publicly about such matters as the Ponsot wines and Mr. Koch’s litigation, I cut my hours down to one day a week in the summer of 2010. Though I remained a signatory on the Wine Hotel’s bank account, and was given checks once a week to sign, I relinquished managing and buying duties then. Finally last year Rudy and I had a conversation in which we both agreed that it would be better for me to step out completely. I have bumped into Rudy once since. It was a friendly encounter.

    Until I saw the pictures of what was found at Rudy’s house I did not believe that he was guilty. I had heard some rumors and confronted him with them but he always had a plausible alternative narrative for me.

    Most of the wines I have tasted of his have ranged from convincing to incredible. At this stage whether they were all fake, mostly fake or partially fake, I do not know. The only hope I have is that my palate is not a total joke and that many of the wines I drank and thought highly of were indeed real. My serious Bordeaux education began with Rudy, and if I built that side of my palate on counterfeit bottles, it is not surprising that I could have been fooled by craftily made counterfeits, a base of good to very good old Bordeaux that simply wasn’t what it was purported to be. But when it comes to Burgundy it is another matter. I take some solace in the fact that the two old Burgundies that impressed me the most, two 19th century wines from Bouchard, came directly from Bouchard. But the thought that a huge proportion of the old Burgundies I had faith in could be total frauds makes me sick. I certainly used these tastings to boost my own credibility by posting tasting notes. Even though I was by no means a part of the majority of the big dinners or tastings, I was at several. In my defense I will say that I began to pull out towards the end of 2006 because dinners involving so many wines began to bore me. There were too many bottles in them that at the time I thought had storage issues but which I now must see as potential counterfeits, possibly made with a base of inferior or tired wine. I wrote and posted about my increasing weariness. All these wines competed with each other, the pours were too small for us to sit with the wines long enough to see a full evolution, which would most likely have brought out their flaws or their greatness. The last serious dinner I posted about was the aforementioned pre-auction dinner. The post on erobertparker.com was dated January 13, 2006. After that date, the Rudy-hosted dinners I attended were sporadic. The exception to this was the 2007 Romanee Conti vertical at Per Se which was not hosted by Rudy, but he is the one that invited me to it. I will also say in my defense that when Rudy and I were alone, he liked to pour me geekier wine, lesser appellations, than the big guns. These I do not believe to be counterfeit and this also contributed to my faith in him. I extend my sincere apologies to the wine community that I posted tasting notes that I thought important, that boosted my persona, but that could have served to boost his credibility.

    I will say of Rudy that he is a brilliant taster, someone I have seen guess things in a matter of seconds. Our friendship started and was based on his incredible interest in wine and his incredible abilities as a taster. He was also more inquisitive about lesser wines than people like him who can afford to drink only the most expensive. I respected him for that. And I shudder to think that by our geeky talks I could have imparted knowledge to him of lesser wines that he ended up putting to a dark use.

    I am saddened, sickened and in utter shock. I have extended a personal apology to Don Cornwell because a few years ago I wrote him a very nasty email after he first lambasted Rudy. I also apologize to the wine community if had any unwitting role in this horrible mess by posting notes or imparting Rudy any education that he could have used to counterfeit wines.

  17. Scott Manlin permalink
    March 11, 2012

    Mr Klapper

    You are a recovering attorney so I appreciate your skepticism. You may very well be right. I certainly am not married to my opinion, at least I recognize where it may lay on the probability distribution. That said, there are some wines, like 78 DRC RC that I have only had a few times, two of which involved Rudy and one, was not, but to me, they were similar, save for one that came from a large format which was younger. What am I to conclude? Is it possible they were all fakes, sure. I don’t have an ass to cover here, I drank the wines, I wrote my notes and at that level they were never wines I could afford or would value at that price, but certainly glad to have tasted.

    Have I been fooled by fakes? I am certain of it, but I have no way of knowing. But RK opened thousands and thousands of bottles over the last decade and I have to beleive the vast majority were legit. His involvement in the forgery of wines has cast an ugly pallor over everything he has done, but to think that this invalidates everything is too much.

    That is how I feel about it. If every wine he poured me was a fake, that does not change the fact that the majority were wonderful to drink.

    Cheers

  18. Bill Klapp permalink
    March 11, 2012

    Kevin, in reading my first sentence again, I can see that it could be construed as identifying you as one of Rudy’s wine friends. That was not my intention. Rather, I was attempting to build on your post. Scott, you were fingered as a duly respected drinker of Rudy’s wines.

    Maureen, you are quite right that nobody deserves to be defrauded, whether by Rudy or Wall Street, but I do think that, if accurate research were possible, the average net worth of wine fraud victims would be hefty. Matt in Chicago, I think putting bankers in prison and seeking restitution for taxpayers trumps using scarce resources chasing con artists. I could not agree more with Dan’s “supply and demand” quip, and in my experience, hubris and big money most often go hand in hand in the world of fine wine. Maureen, I would not want to see your seminarian client defrauded, or anyone else. The points that I make are simply that more high net worth individuals have suffered significant losses via wine fraud than average folk (who generally lack the resources to buy old and rare fake bottles), and that I do not think that wine fraud should be a high priority of the Federal government. State and local enforcement makes more sense to me, maybe even tighter monitoring and/or regulation of auction houses.

  19. Bill Klapp permalink
    March 11, 2012

    Scott and Kevin, with all due respect (and I am sincere in that), the “but Rudy’s wines that I DRANK were legit” smells of CYP (the palate equivalent of CYA). Parker and some of his fellow critics are still in denial that they were had by Hardy Rodenstock (excuse me, Meinhard Gorke, his real name). Do I think that both Rudy and Hardy lured in the prey with some real wine? Sure. But what I believe in even more is the fallibility of the human nose and palate, and the vanity in that regard that I have witnessed so often in the denizens of wine boards…

  20. March 11, 2012

    Scott –
    Were the corks blank?
    ;)

  21. Scott Manlin permalink
    March 11, 2012

    Kevin…entirlely possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some, but I would be if the vast majority were… that said, I wouldn’t bet anything of substance on that position in light of what we have learned.. I just don’t beleive it or don’t want to… I have found some of my tasting notes from a couple events, but I am still looking for mine from a birthday dinner for his mother that was thrown at Melisse 6 or 7 years ago. The dinner that night was all very large format bordeaux and I took copious notes. I’d be shocked if they were anything but bordeaux. But I could be completely wrong…

  22. Kevin permalink
    March 11, 2012

    I find fascinating the comments of people who were close to Rudy and participated in his tastings over the years. Having been a victim of “fraud” in a very different context, I can relate to some of the emotions…

    While I certainly presume that many of the wines he served at those events were legitimate, I think it’s more likely that they were held expressly to “test-drive” certain fraudulent wines. That is, host a big tasting, throw in a few frauds, and watch the reactions of the “experts” in attendance. If they could be fooled, then viola — he’s in. And if the frauds were especially well-received, he’d have also then augmented the market for additional bottles of the same frauds to follow. It’s brilliant, actually…

  23. Scott Manlin permalink
    March 11, 2012

    Incredibly damning evidence and I am saddened that it turned out to be the case but similarly glad that hopefully this will be the beginning of the end of such forgery and fakery in the rare wine business.

    That said, all of Rudy’s wines were not counterfeit. He was an incredibly active buyer for many years which stands to reason than a lot of the wine that he drank and generously shared were not counterfeit, but genuine, specifically the ones he acquired early on. Also makes sense that those he acquired tend to be genuine with the incentive to intermingle the fake with the real when he elected to sell. I have never purchased any of Rudy’s wines at auction, but many have and many have been satisfied with their purchases. I have been on the receiving end of Rudy’s largesse several times and I find it highly unlikely that the wines that were consumed were fakes. I am sure some were, but I would think that most would not be. Time will likely reveal much of the details as this goes to court and others are ensnared, but I bet the stuff he drank and shared was by and large legitimate and not until the market was sufficiently frothy did he set out to manufacturer these rare bottles. I could be wrong, but having just looked through some of my RK tasting notes, I’d be pretty surprised if those bottles weren’t authentic…

    That said, I am glad for the work that Don, Laurent and others have done to put an end to this sad, unfortunate and very disappointing period. I cannot imagine he was alone in this either, I just wonder how wide this ripple will be felt..

  24. Dan McCallum permalink
    March 11, 2012

    Mike,
    An engrossing saga, and your coverage is simply the best. And augmented by Mr Ponsot no less; that was a delightful sight for sore eyes & weary mind. Thanks to him, and to you for providing a forum that he would care to join.
    I don’t want to divert the discussion, but cannot resist this calling to expand the thinking behind the discussion….. If I have learned anything in a lifetime of observing man and markets, it is this: If hubris is part of the demand, deceit will be part of the supply.
    Best & please carry on

  25. Matt In Chicago permalink
    March 10, 2012

    I would say M. Ponsot has clearly and eloquently answered the question posed by Bill Klapp.

    Further, I can’t think of a better use of taxpayer dollars than defending citizens (the primary function of gov’t, after all).

    The law, like the the quality of mercy, should drop as the gentle rain. The net worth of those defrauded is immaterial.

    And I, for one, am deeply interested in where this case leads. As asked below, who else is culpable? Maybe we should ask who profited?

    One other thing — Rudy sure had lots of fake labels for high end Bordeaux. So far we have mostly heard about counterfeit Burgundy. How many more tales are there to tell? (yet another reason for the FBI to be diligent, one would presume.)

  26. Didier Li permalink
    March 10, 2012

    Merci Monsieur Ponsot. I am not a Burgundy buyer but nonetheless am grateful for your services to the fine wine consuming/collecting community.

    I cannot wait to discover the accomplices and abettors to these crimes and see them face the music at last,

  27. -anon permalink
    March 10, 2012

    “Rudy has been advised by someone with extensive knowledge of a very complicated Burgundy.”
    Maybe even by someone who owns a New York Auction House.

    M. Ponsot, thank you for your service to the community.

  28. Jack Bulkin permalink
    March 10, 2012

    Congratulations Monsieur Ponsot. The amount of times that you and your wines and as well as false vintages almost sold were identified in the Information led me to believe before this terrific statement by you that you were very instrumental in this investigation. Many have assumed that the recent fake DRC British auction was the catalyst for Mr. K’s arrest, but the words of the Complaint tell a very different story. Wine lovers and ancient wine auction buyers owe a great debt to your tireless effort and selfless time invested in this troubling matter. I personally would like to both thank you and toast you tonight. Cheers.

  29. Laurent Ponsot permalink
    March 10, 2012

    Just a quick reaction…
    The FBI is not working at all for or with Bill Koch.
    In fact, after the famous sales at Acker in April 2008, I decided to start a cruisade against the fakers.
    Since, in the dark, with no show off, I work on this case.
    Even if I tried to get help from other wineries, I have been quite lonely on my way…
    RK arrested is the result of nearly four years of my own investigations around the world.
    Since two years now, I am in close contact with FBI agents devoted to the case of fakes wines.
    And we have had multiple meetings in New York to work on this together.
    I was in Manhattan late February and we had two long work sessions on Tuesday 28th and Wednesday 29th.
    Rudy was arrested with the precise instructions I gave to FBI agents during these work sessions.
    And now, I think that his accomplices should also be identified and arrested, even if they are in France, Hong Kong or anywhere on the planet.
    It is impossible that Rudy had the knowledge on so multiple wineries.
    When it is quite easy to find real samples of old Bordeaux wines bottles in order to copy them, it is nearly impossible for Burgundies.
    Rudy has been advised by someone with extensive knowledge of a very complicated Burgundy.
    I know who it is, but in the current state of the investigation, I keep this information secret.
    Rudy himself should denounce his informants and his accomplices.
     
    My reaction is only based on justice : it had to happen.
    And I have been more than active in the process.

    This had to be said.

  30. Jack Bulkin permalink
    March 10, 2012

    Blake I am no fan of the Koch Brothers. In fact, I think they should be investigated by the Feds for their illegal sales to Iran and polution dumping by their businesses. That said, Bill Koch, the wine fraud purchaser is the brother of the illustrious duo that I have less than lovingly mentioned above. I believe that he also had litigation against them at one point. He is not part of their businesses nor contribution networks to Tea Party and other whacko right wing candidates as the Wisconsin anti labor Governor. I am certain that Bill Koch’s politcal affiliations are not too far left of his brothers, but I at least didn’t want you to associate them with wine, either fraudulent or legitimate.

  31. March 10, 2012

    Philosophically I confess my first reaction was similar to Bill Klapp’s: This is what the FBI is spending resources on?

    But these frauds were just too blatant to ignore. Once somebody calls attention to the fact that somebody is selling a vintage from a winery that didn’t actually make that vintage, the FBI is practically compelled to act.

    Maureen’s example of a collector is compelling, but I’m never going to get the Koch brothers out of my head when it comes to auction fraud stories. When those guys aren’t spending their billions investigating auction fraud, they’re bankrolling the Tea Party, duping middle-class conservatives into supporting economic policies that reduce the Koch brothers’ taxes. I do hate to see the FBI also doing the Koch brothers’ bidness.

  32. RobinC permalink
    March 10, 2012

    Maureen explained an important issue well.
    I’m interested in Kurniwan’s living illegally in the United States since 2003. One wonders if he wasn’t deported because of his perceived wealth and influence.
    It is a cause for rejoicing that he has been caught so irrecovably red-handed. I hope that he spends huge amounts of time in jail, and that every time he comes up for release a representative from Domaine Ponsot will be there to squelch it.

  33. March 10, 2012

    Bill – Just because someone like fine & rare wine, does not mean they deserve to be defrauded.
    I have a client with a huge collection – that drives a modest car, dresses modestly and lives modestly – because his passion is wine – and that is where he spends his money. He is a Dr of Ethics and teaches at a Theological Seminary – not exactly a flashy guy…. Why should he get screwed because he likes old and rare wines?

    It is not a victim-less crime. Your statement, “Too much disposable income, probably amassed at the expense of less fortunate folk, whose owners have an obsessive need to either flash the cash or park it somewhere.” is a disgusting portrayal of many people I have seen defrauded over the years. That people have created wealth, often by creating tens of thousands of jobs – mind you – is NOT a crime. But knowingly selling fake wine is.

    I am thrilled that Jim Wynne and his team are doing such an amazing job to clean up what should be a respectable industry.

    MD

  34. March 10, 2012

    Any idea on which CA wines were being put into the fakes?

  35. Dan McCallum permalink
    March 10, 2012

    Well, as the big boy might say- “no biggy, what’s a couple hundred extra mags of ’47s & 55′s floating around among friends?” This saga is movie material, for its comic ‘home-cooking’ rusticity. A look back into the past of wine fraud.
    The future I would say is rather more unsettling. In a world where a couple of points above the norm can elevate 50,000-100,000 cases of 5-10-15 somewhat industrially produced wines to values of $300-1000+ / bottle- we can look forward to somewhat more industrially produced counterfeiting. When a few cases of fresh off the bottling line wine are worth more than an automobile, we can expect that the technology of faking has been, is, or will be rapidly elevated.
    Here is a question for you– where did all that unwanted 2007 Bordeaux go? How much of it is out there awaiting re-incarnation?

  36. Jack Bulkin permalink
    March 10, 2012

    Bill, I have no interest in buying any of your fake wines. I am recently so offended by the Emperor’s continued malfeasance to the consumer through his points, hype and tweets to promote price gouging and the sales of over ripe highly alcoholic wines that I have become a teetotaler and will begin the process of selling all of my authentic over rated wines to add to my coffee and green tea cellar. : )

  37. March 10, 2012

    Bill, you do raise the completely valid issue that the sucker who buys a fake Damien Hirst isn’t getting any more swindled than the sucker who buys a genuine Damien Hirst.

  38. Larry Kantrowitz permalink
    March 10, 2012

    Would you like some 1947 Lefleur with dinner? Give me just a minute I’ll make..um I mean I’ll fetch a bottle..

  39. Bill Klapp permalink
    March 10, 2012

    I would add this, however: what is now surfacing explains Rudy’s vaunted generosity. One has to laugh at the fools that are still defending Rudy because they were more-money-than-good-sense types who benefitted from his largesse. Too bad they did not know if and when all those generous pours were fakes. Too bad wine critics rarely know when they are drinking and reporting on fake bottles, especially exceedingly old and rare bottles for which they have no frame of reference but their own egos. One would have thought that something had been learned from the Rodenstock debacle, but apparently not. And the more old wine that one drinks, the more one realizes that it is absolutely true that there are no great wines or great vintages, just great bottles. It seems to me that that phenomenon, along with others, such as the Emperor’s New Clothes nature of wine criticism and the collection and consumption of the old, rare, expensive and point-laden bottles in general, often makes wine fraud an exercise in shooting fish in a (wine) barrel…

  40. Bill Klapp permalink
    March 10, 2012

    All of this is tempting my contrarian instincts. First of all, the FBI’s elite collectibles squad strikes me as a waste of scarce tax dollars, akin to the DEA making big pot busts. In my view, both are victimless crimes, or, in the case of art and fine wine, nearly so. Why? Look at the profiles of those that get swindled. Too much disposable income, probably amassed at the expense of less fortunate folk, whose owners have an obsessive need to either flash the cash or park it somewhere. Those that drink (or hang, in the case of fine art) the stuff often suffer from what one might call Kaponism, a holier-than-thou need to drink and tell, so to speak. (In Kapon’s case, better wine than ElIot Spitzer’s addiction, I suppose!). I can get interested in wine fraud at the vineyard level, if wines are not as represented or adulterated, or if, say, somebody starts making thousands of cases of phony Beringer Private Reserve Cab. It is up to the great chateaux and domaines, along with their now necessarily filthy rich clientele, to enforce wine fraud. Bill Koch is a good example. Let him burn his millions proving civil fraud, then turn over his slam-dunk criminal fraud cases to prosecutors. How about them apples?

    P.S. I do not want to give the impression that I am a Yellow Tail-swilling have-not poking the well-to-do with a sharp stick. I am reeling in the years, perhaps more filthy than rich, but a serious wine collector who could be unknowingly harboring a fake bottle or two in my cellar. Of course, if I out the phonies, I will either drink them with Steinberger or sell them to Bulkin…

  41. Tim McCracken permalink
    March 9, 2012

    Incredible, it is amazing that he has been able to get away with this for so long without being caught!

  42. March 9, 2012

    I am speechless. The pics are incredible.

  43. March 9, 2012

    Wow – those pics are amazing!
    Thank you!

  44. Jack Bulkin permalink
    March 9, 2012

    It is hard for me to believe that with all the noise about authenticity of the wines at the Spectrum British Auction and the subsequent revelations about the FBI opening a case that Kurniawan still had so much incriminating evidence in his home. Did his Attorney ever advise him? Very strange to me that the man made it so easy for th Feds to make a case against him unless his wltimate goal was to quickly leave the Country but he just ran out of time.

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