Sherry-Lehmann has long been one of the most celebrated wine stores in New York City, but it may have soured its relationship with some collectors.
The Midtown shop is facing allegations of failing to deliver more than $1 million of fine wine to customers who have already paid for the bottles, according to a New York Times investigation published on Thursday. Sherry-Lehmann also owes New York $2.8 million in unpaid sales taxes and is apparently behind on payments to wholesalers. Plus, some have accused a related business of selling bottles in private storage to other customers.
The problems outlined in the Times report have been going on for at least a few years, but journalist James B. Stewart started looking into the company once he himself became a victim of its supposedly dubious practices. Stewart writes that he was a Sherry-Lehmann customer for many years before he eventually started buying futures (paying in advance for wine that would be delivered a few years later). He bought futures during a few different years but never saw any of the bottles, estimating that he’s now out of about $6,300.
Stewart soon came to realize his experience wasn’t all that uncommon. Other customers also complained about similar failed deliveries of futures. Shyda Gilmer, a current co-owner of Sherry-Lehmann, blamed delays on Trump-era wine tariffs, and Eric Andrus, a spokesperson for the company, said that 90 percent of the recent vintages had been delivered, while the rest would arrive by the fall. However, Stewart noted that the tariffs were lifted more than two years ago, and many of the same wines are now readily available in the United States.
“It’s perfectly obvious Sherry-Lehmann never paid for those wines and doesn’t have the money to buy them now,” William Gladstone, a dealer of rare and collectible wines, told the Times. “I can’t believe they’re allowed to do business.”
Sherry-Lehmann has been around for almost nine decades and is credited with introducing Americans to Dom Pérignon Champagne in 1947 and Bordeaux Petrus in the 1960s. Celebs like Mick Jagger and Greta Garbo bought their wines from the company, as did billionaires and oenophile collectors. Yet the company’s liquor license expired earlier this year and the store was forced to close. The license was restored in late March but the store remains shut, although Gilmer and Andrus have said that a grand reopening is happening soon.
These latest allegations don’t paint a pretty picture of Sherry-Lehmann, though, frustrating customers and disappointing those who were once part of the business. As the former co-owner Michael Aaron told the Times, “It’s heartbreaking to watch a wonderful company where I spent 50 years just crumble.”
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