Celebrity chef accused in counterfeit wine case

Charlie Trotter (L) is seen in this undated photograph sent to Reuters in New York August 28, 2012....

Charlie Trotter (L) is seen in this undated photograph sent to Reuters in New York August 28, 2012. Trotter will mark the 25th anniversary of his Chicago restaurant on Friday by closing its doors permanently so he can pursue a master's degree in philosophy. (REUTERS/Kipling Swehla/Handout)

P.J. Huffstutter, Reuters

, Last Updated: 10:29 AM ET

CHICAGO - The famed Chicago chef Charlie Trotter has been sued for allegedly selling two wine collectors from New York a big, bogus bottle of wine.

According to a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Chicago, Bekim and Ilir Frrokaj paid more than $46,200 last June for what they thought was a magnum of 1945 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti from Trotter's Michelin-starred restaurant.

Trotter closed his restaurant last August, citing a desire to travel and to study philosophy, and as part of the closure made plans to sell thousands of bottles from his restaurant's wine collection. This drew interest from wine aficionados who admired the restaurant's collection of Bordeaux and cabernets.

"During dinner, Charlie Trotter and the sommelier explained the rarity and value of the DRC magnum to Benn and Ilir," according to the court filing. "Charlie Trotter and the sommelier also spoke about wines from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti estate and how those wines are some of the rarest and most valuable in the world."

But the Frrokajs contend this was not true, and that it was only when they tried to have the bottle insured that they learned from a consultant that it was counterfeit.

Trotter could not immediately be reached for comment. It was not immediately clear whether he hired a lawyer for his defense.

According to the complaint, when consultant Maureen Downey met with estate co-owner Aubert de Villaine, he stated "Domaine de la Romanee-Conti only produced small yields in 1945 and as a result did not produce any large format magnum-size bottles."

The lawsuit accuses Trotter and his former restaurant of violating federal and state consumer laws, and seeks $75,000 in damages. Efforts to recover without going to court proved unsuccessful, the plaintiffs' lawyer John Auchter said Thursday.

The case is Frrokaj et al v. CHT Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, No. 13-04376.


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