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US officials set to destroy $200,000 wine cellar

Thousands of bottles of fine wine, many from boutique producers in California, are set to be destroyed in the US after being seized in a police raid, unless their owner can stop the process.

Arthur Goldman’s wine cellar. Image credit: Handout / Philly.com

Police in Pennsylvania confiscated 2,447 bottles of wine earlier this year from lawyer Arthur Goldman. He was charged with illegally reselling wine to private clients within the state, after being exposed by an undercover sting operation.

Goldman has since agreed to join the state’s first-time offender programme, which involves community service and two years of probation.

But his wine collection, which police valued at between $150,000 and $200,000 at the time of his arrest, was facing destruction under the state’s alcohol laws unless he can convince the Court of Common Pleas in Chester County to hand them back.

The court has declared the wines forfeit, but Goldman will file a counter-motion within the next week.

‘Destroying it would not only be devastating to the Goldmans, but also an absolute waste,’ Goldman’s lawyer, Peter Kratsa, told Decanter.com. ‘We are confident that we will ultimately prevail in getting the wine returned,’ he said.

Many Californian wines are listed on an inventory of Goldman’s stock, produced by police. Some of the wines listed were on sale in other US states for more than $100, such as Bone Rock Syrah 2009 from Saxum Vineyards, on sale at Chicago-based Hart Davis Hart for $125 for a single bottle.

Many more were priced at more than $50, including Turley Wine Cellars’ Napa Valley Zinfandel 2011, on sale for around $60 in California at the Old & Rare Wine Co.

Christina Turley, director of sales and marketing at her family’s estate, said, ‘While we of course would never want our wines used for illegal purposes, it would be a shame to see all that hard work go to waste. We hope a reasonable solution will be reached.’

There were also several German Rieslings on the inventory list, including a 2004 vintage Riesling from Dr Ernst Loosen and a 2005 Riesling from Robert Weil.

The list also includes a 1999 vintage Pommard premier cru from an unnamed domaine, as well as a number of Rhone wines, such as a Chateau de Beaucastel red 2000 and a Chateau Saint Cosme 2010. There was also a Barolo Cannubi 2000 listed. Full details of some of the wines and their producers were not cited by police.

‘This forfeiture case is still in litigation so it is too soon to determine the fate of the wine,’ said a spokesperson for Pennsylvania district attorney Kathleen Kane

Only the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, a government-affiliated agency, has the power to import, store and sell alcohol in the state, a rule that dates back to the end of Prohibition in 1933.

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Written by Chris Mercer

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