Rudy Kurniawan liked a good bottle of wine. Actually, it appears that he craved it. Rudy, an émigré from Indonesia, became an acclaimed collector of rare, highly expensive wines, especially those from Burgundy, France.
He became so famous that in 2005 he hosted, with three others, an ultra exclusive tasting of wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, the Burgundy producer whose wines auction for as much as $20,000 per bottle. His collection was so vast that the owner of Romanée-Conti attended the tasting. That’s like having Magic Johnson join you for a Dodgers game.
Rudy supposedly amassed a collection of 50,000 bottles and sold as much as $35M through auction. The Los Angeles Times and Wine Spectator both featured breathless articles about his spending prowess. Ironically, Rudy told the Times in 2006 that he had to watch out for counterfeit classics.
Turns out that one of the largest suppliers of fake wine was Rudy himself. The jury took less than two hours to convict Kurniawan of fraud in December 2013. He could receive up to 40 years in prison.
According to the charges, Rudy was manufacturing fake bottles of highly collectible wines. When they raided his Arcadia home, authorities found according to the New York Times, photos showing “reams of printed labels for some of the most expensive wines in the world … as well as corks, foils, rubber stamps with vintage dates and bottles that prosecutors said were being prepared as counterfeits.”
At a recent tasting, we tried some wines that we knew were not counterfeit because they came directly from the winery.
We tested a 2011 Dolin Malibu (yes, that Malibu) Chardonnay against the 2000 Macon-Pierreclos.
Elliott Dolin grows his Chard in an estate high up in the Malibu hills, with an inspiring vista of ocean views. He and his winemaker, Kirby Anderson (formerly of Gainey), have produced a quite tasty white. The group enjoyed its honeydew aromas and bright flavors. The Macon-Pierreclos, being Old World, is more subdued but also delicious with strong grapefruit and mineral notes.
We also tried the 2012 Masút Pinot Noir, the creation of Ben and Jake Fetzer of the famed Fetzer family. This one divided the group. Some really enjoyed the black cherry and blackberry nose and taste while others found it a little thin and one-dimensional.
© Carl Kanowsky