A New York Times columnist admitted he was bamboozled out of $6,300 by iconic 88-year-old vintner Sherry-Lehmann — yet shelled out another $400 for a case of pricey wine that also never came.
Times columnist James B. Stewart wrote in a Thursday column that in 2016 he paid Sherry-Lehmann for four cases of 2015 Bordeaux with the understanding that they would be shipped to him after the bottles matured, about three years later.
The posh wine store on Park Avenue — whose financial woes and alleged bilking of customers were first reported by The Post — pioneered the pay-in-advance model in the ’50s, when its wealthy New York clientele began investing in wine.
After paying in advance for the 48 bottles of Bordeaux, Stewart also bought futures for 2016 and 2019 blends — which were scheduled to be delivered in 2019 and 2022, respectively. He was out a total of $6,300.
Years passed and the cases of wine never showed up, according to Stewart. Sherry-Lehmann reportedly blamed the pandemic on shipping delays.
Nevertheless, Stewart returned to Sherry-Lehmann yet again in spring 2022, handing over another $400 for a case of white Burgundy he was told was in stock. He never received it.
When he reached out to the company, Sherry-Lehmann first insisted the case was on back order, and later stopped responding to Stewart’s emails and phone calls.
When Sherry-Lehmann spokesperson Eric Andrus caught wind that Stewart was writing a column about the situation for The Times, he said the wine store claimed it had located Stewart’s four cases of 2015 bottles, but that they couldn’t be delivered because Stewart had moved since placing the order.
Stewart said Andrus failed to mention his missing 2016 and 2019 futures orders.
Meanwhile, Sherry-Lehmann has failed to deliver more than $1 million to customers who paid for their wine in advance, according to records obtained by The Times.
The million-dollar debt doesn’t include clients of Wine Caves — a storage business helmed by Sherry-Lehman’s owners Shyda Gilmer and Kris Green for high-paying Sherry-Lehmann clients.
Four former employees said they believed Sherry-Lehmann was swiping customers’ rare bottles being held at Wine Caves and selling them to other customers, according to the column.
The then-worldwide head of Sotheby’s wine, Jamie Ritchie — now the auction house’s worldwide chair of wine and spirits — even warned at least one of his own clients that their bottles stored at Wine Caves were at risk, according to the Times.
That client was Fredric Mack, the former chairman of NYC nonprofit culture and community center 92nd Street Y.
Ritchie reportedly warned Mack about his Wine Caves-stored bottles in November, upon which he immediately tried to retrieve them.
Mack told The Times that only some of his pricey bottles of wine were delivered. He said he called Gilmer to complain about the missing stock earlier this year, and was reassured that the wine was on its way.
The bottles never showed, and Mack is still missing a pricey amount of French and Italian vintages.
In a Wednesday interview, Gilmer insisted that the tale of Mack’s missing bottles was not true. He told The Times that all of Mack’s wine that was in storage at Wine Caves’ storage site in Pearl River, NY, has already been delivered.
Gilmer also assured that the company never sold wine out of its Wine Caves without permission from the bottles’ owners, The Times reported.
However, Carlos Felipe, Sherry-Lehmann’s director of warehouse operations, said in an interview with The Times that he was instructed by Gilmer to deliver select bottles of wine from Wine Caves in New York to another storage center in New Jersey.
According to photos of the bottles while in transit that were sent to The Times, the delivery took place on March 15.
Felipe said the bottles he was being asked to move originally belonged to oil billionaire Sid Bass, who’s worth $3.9 billion, and two other Sherry-Lehmann customers.
The wine was originally purchased by Bass, but ownership was transferred to his ex-wife, Mercedes Bass, when the couple split in 2011. A person close to Mercedes Bass told The Times that she didn’t approve any sale or transfer of the wine.
When asked about Bass’ wine transfer, Andrus said the bottles were moved by mistake and said they were returned to the New York Wine Caves storage unit the next day.
The driver who took the bottles to New Jersey told The Times that Andrus was wrong, but declined to comment any further.
“The New York Times article about Sherry-Lehmann was riddled with factual errors and misrepresentations. Much of the information and inaccurate claims in the article were based on former officers of the company who had not been involved in operations for many years, ex-employees who had left the company years ago, unnamed sources, and second-hand sources,” Andrus told The Post.
As a result of the alleged mix–up, Bass reportedly removed all of her wine from the Wine Caves. Gilmer said “every bottle and every case will be delivered,” according to The Times.
It’s unclear how many bottles of wine Bass owns, or how much her stash is worth.
Felipe has since stopped working for Sherry-Lehmann, citing week-long stints of working without pay. He also said that Gilmer threatened him with a lawsuit if he spoke to the media or disclosed any transactions at Wine Caves.
On March 9, The Post revealed that Sherry-Lehmann had abruptly shuttered its doors after it was issued a cease-and-desist order for failing to renew its liquor license.
The SLA renewed and approved Sherry-Lehmann’s license on May 22, and the iconic NYC store was back open by April 4.
However, an invoice reviewed by The Times showed that Sherry-Lehmann continued selling wine in the nearly two weeks the store was shut down.
The invoice, dated March 13, showed that Sherry-Lehmann sold $358,000 worth of vino to a real estate developer living in North Carolina, The Times reported.
The transaction included bottles of 1995 Domaine de la Romanee Conti La Tache and 1992 Petrus, which retail for $7,995 and $4,895 per bottle, respectively.
The invoice listed Gilmer as the employee who completed the transaction, according to The Times.
It was no secret that at the time, Sherry-Lehmann was strapped for cash thanks to a $3.1 million sales tax bill to New York state it racked up in 2022.
It was also slapped with a lawsuit earlier this year, where a pair of well-heeled wine aficionados sued the shop, claiming they’re owed more than $800,000 worth of undelivered goods.
But despite the wine store’s financial shortages, Gilmer and Green weren’t shy to treat themselves to a bottle of Sherry-Lehmann’s top-shelf bottles, which they would bring with them to nearby swanky eateries and enjoy alongside dinners at the likes of Nobu 57, La Goulue and The Post House, sources told The Post.
“When your staff sees you walking out the door with two magnums of Champagne and Burgundy every day, that doesn’t send a good message,” said a former Sherry-Lehmann executive, noting that the boss’s lunches and dinners were notoriously lengthy. “We used to joke that Nobu 57 was [Gilmer’s] office from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.”
CEO Gilmer joined Sherry-Lehmann in his 20s as a sales rep and became a partner in the business in 2007. Green, meanwhile, worked at hedge funds before making an investment in Sherry-Lehman in 2013, making him co-owner.
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