Back in March we reported on the arrest of jet-setting wine collector and dealer Rudy Kurniawan, a.k.a. Dr. Conti, who was busted for allegedly selling counterfeit bottles of ultrarare French vintages. It turns out that a key to Kurniawan’s success over part of the last decade was his palate, and his skill at mimicking — via blends he made in a home laboratory using recent vintages — the bouquet, color, and flavor of very old and expensive wines.
Kurniawan was indicted by a federal grand jury in New York this week, and he’s still being held in a federal lockup in Los Angeles, where he’s been since early March.
As Wine Spectator reports, one piece of evidence found by the FBI in a raid of Kurniawan’s California home was “a relatively recent California Pinot Noir that Kurniawan had marked as ‘40’s/50’s DRC,’” which referred to famed Burgundy producer Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. He also had reams of fake labels dating back to 1899, and equipment for inserting corks and creating wax seals, as would be found on very old bottles.
The whole reason the 35-year-old Indonesian national got caught, however, was that he perhaps started overreaching in his ability to hoodwink the high-end wine market, and got a little lax in his research. In one case, he tried to pass off bottles of 1929 Domaine Ponsot at an auction, but Domaine Ponsot did not begin estate bottling until 1934 — something that representatives at the estate quickly took note of.
So it wasn’t that anyone opened these bottles and disbelieved their provenance. They must have been pretty goddamn good! We can’t help but think that Kurniawan could have had a great career as a winemaker or blender of wine, given these obvious skills. If he’d been better at branding he could have even maybe made a name for himself as some newfangled wine blender. Perhaps, after some time in minimum-security lockup, he still could. He’ll probably have to head to Europe though, since he’ll likely be deported, too.