Charlie Trotter Sued for Selling Allegedly Fake, $46K Bottle of Wine [Updated]

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NEW YORK - APRIL 11:  (L-R) Chef Charlie Trotter, actress Kim Cattrall, and chef Alan Wyse help launch the Turbochef Residential Speedcook Oven at Guastavino's on April 11, 2007 in New York City.  (Photo by Rob Loud/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Charlie Trotter;Kim Cattrall;Alan Wyse
The chef allegedly personally vouched for the bottle's provenance. Photo: Rob Loud/Getty Images; Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Two New York-based wine collectors filed a lawsuit against legendary Chicago chef Charlie Trotter in Illinois Northern District Court for allegedly selling them a 1945 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti for $46,000 because it turned out to be a fake, the Sun-Times reports. Bronx residents Bekim and Ilir Frrokaj claim they paid $46,227.40 for the 1945 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti magnum last year, allegedly after the famed chef and a wine expert personally delivered a compelling sales pitch in the dining room of his now-closed restaurant. Bekim Frrokaj forked over $40,000 in cash, put the rest on a credit card, and the bottle was shipped to New York. The only problem? It turns out DRC didn't make any magnums with a 1945 vintage.

Three months after they received the bottle, Frrokaj was told by his insurance carrier that the wine would require verification in order to be covered under his policy. A third-party analyst determined that the bottle was fake and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti co-owner Aubert de Villain agreed, noting the winemaker had experienced relatively low yields in 1945, and "as a result did not produce any large-format magnum-size bottles in that vintage," the lawsuit contends. The pair are seeking their money back and $75,000 in damages, which could buy them a few nice replacement bottles if they are successful in court. A copy of the lawsuit is here.

Similar bottles have gone for as much as $125,000 at auction. Predictably, the vintage has been a grail of sorts for counterfeiters, who've even at times devised elaborate blending schematics that involve vintage labels, old corks, and glass bottles. Crafty wine counterfeiters can turn a few hundred dollars' worth of wine and some old stuff they found on eBay into a business worth many millions. the downside is that they tend to eventually get caught.

Charlie Trotter's closed last August after a protracted series of commemorative events and blowout dinners. The contents of the restaurant's wine cellar exceeded estimates last year at auction, and it's likely that more than a few oenophiles — Trotter auction participants and otherwise — will be going through their cellars this morning, checking the glue on their labels and the wax on their corks.

Update: When reached for comment, the chef told the Chicago Tribune that the lawsuit is not what it seems. "It was a disgruntled client who probably paid a lot more money (for the bottle) than he's ever paid before," he said. "It's buyer's remorse."

Wine collectors sue chef Charlie Trotter, say $46K bottle is fake [Chicago Sun-Times]
Charlie Trotter's sued for selling fake DRC
[Wine Beserkers]
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