28 March 2020

Bankruptcy Court Examines Mystery at Wine Storage Business

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A New York wine storage facility affected by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 is the center of controversy as a bankruptcy court decides on whether or not to liquidate the inventory. The question is exactly what happened to all those reds, whites and rosés that WineCare coddled in its temperature-controlled cellars in New York City, and why have most of its clients still been unable to get anywhere near their wine?

WineCare is owned by Derek L. Limbocker, a onetime financial adviser, publisher of rare art prints and society figure in Newport, RI, and New York. He has sought protection from creditors in bankruptcy court, while he says he struggles to salvage his business and the 270,000 bottles of rare and valuable wine stored by financiers, high-powered litigators and real estate investors in his cellars in a West Chelsea warehouse. The problems began when water poured into the cellars during Hurricane Sandy.

Judge Robert E. Gerber of United States Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan held a hearing on whether to liquidate WineCare, opening the door to resolving a yearlong mystery.

Mr. Limbocker, 73, seems bewildered by the turn of events that has brought his once-thriving business to its knees. He has had to endure accusations from ungrateful clients, he said, “that we’re thieves, that we sold the wine or threw it into the Hudson.”

“We’ve told nothing but the truth,” Mr. Limbocker added. “We’ve stored our clients’ wine safely and under the right conditions since the storm hit.” There’s no question that Hurricane Sandy drove the waters of the Hudson into the warehouse’s basement. How high water rose and what affect it had on the inventory is unclear.

But many clients have not had access to their wine and have run out of patience. Another factor affecting the situation is that WineCare’s computer system was destroyed when a pipe burst and flooded the company’s offices.

The labels on some of the bottles are “stained, torn or faded as a result of Sandy,” according to a report by a court-appointed monitor. The wine may not have been affected but, according to wine experts, that kind of damage would reduce the value of the bottles.

Until the bankruptcy court rules, clients will be without access to their wine. Click here to read the original article in the New York Times.

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