Two wine collectors from New York City have filed suit against famed Chicago chef Charlie Trotter for selling them a counterfeit bottle of wine for $46, 227.40.
The collectors, a married couple, filed the suit on June 13 in U.S District Court in Northern Illinois. They are seeking over $75,000 in damages: In addition to $30,000 worth of punitive damages, they want the $46, 227.40 back.
When reached by ABC News, the couple declined to comment and asked that their names not be revealed for privacy purposes.
Trotter operated Charlie Trotter’s, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Chicago. (ABC7 reported that Trotter closed his restaurant in the summer of 2012 to attend graduate school.) According to the restaurant’s website, it has received awards and citations from the James Beard Foundation, the Wine Spectator and Restaurant Magazine.
It was these accolades that took the couple there when they flew to Chicago in June 2012. In addition to sampling the food, they wanted to buy a bottle of Burgundy from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti to add to their wine collection. The court documents maintain that this type of wine is among the most valuable in the world.
They purchased a 1945 DRC Magnum for $46, 227.40, according to the court documents. But when they wanted to add the bottle to their homeowners’ insurance, they were told to verify its authenticity.
They contacted Maureen Downey, a San Francisco based wine consultant, who said the wine was counterfeit.
Downey told ABC News that she was skeptical of the bottle because it was a magnum, which is equivalent to two bottles. She said Domaine de la Romanee-Conti only produced two barrels—roughly 50 bottles—of wine in 1945.
“The chance that they would make large formats [of the wine] when they were in postwar shambles is not very high,” she said.
Downey also said the photographs of the wine bottle that the couple sent her were identical to the photographs of another client.
“The details are the same with the fake aging. They have both been allegedly faded to make it look as though they have been aged and it’s just not probable that these two different bottles would look so exactly the same,” she said.
Trotter has refused to cancel the sale with the couple, according to court documents. He could not be reached for comment.
Vincent Louis DiTommaso, the couple’s attorney, told ABC News that he attempted to resolve the dispute outside of court but was unable to do so.
“I am just surprised because to me we had clear evidence of just showing that the wine was a fake, and to me the right thing to do is give the person their money back and be done with it,” DiTommaso said.
John Riccione, who DiTommaso said had been representing Trotter, was out of the office until Monday and could not be reached for comment.