The past year has seen many obstacles for Maison Ilan. During this time there have been many changes in my personal life as well. Due to recent internet articles and accusations, I would like to see that my side of the story gets told. I was hoping to be able to have matters with my company cleared up months ago, but to my great dismay, this is not the case.
At present, nearly all of the Maison Ilan wines in inventory, in bottle or barrel, have been seized by French Customs. This has been an almost seven-month process wherein Customs has been involved with Maison Ilan due to an administrative error on my part. The issue was a seemingly minor mistake but it had a plethora of consequences. To be specific, the issue comes from my not personally providing to Customs the exact amount of wine that was made by Maison Ilan in 2013 through 2015.
Typically, the négociant (myself) along with the grape broker and vineyard owner would supply to Customs the exact amount of grapes that would be bought prior to harvest. This was done by all the players every year since I started making wine. This same number would also be confirmed during harvest. The next step is where problems arose. While the grape broker and vineyard owners supplied the amount of wine in liters produced by Maison Ilan in 2013-2015 once the wines went into barrel, I failed to follow up and deliver this information to Customs myself. This resulted in Customs alerting me in September 2016 of the administrative error. While I don’t wish to provide excuses, the reality is that this was a very tumultuous time in my life. I was doing my best to raise three children and juggle my collapsing marriage, all while trying to run a business on my own. In the span of four years, I quadrupled my wine production in my small garage. It was a gross error on my part to not hire more staff to help me administratively. The result was a company that was succeeding financially and publicly but was administratively disorganized. I had the constant feeling that I was struggling to stay on top of the production of the wine, administrative paperwork, sales, and customer service.
As a result of the missing paperwork, French customs froze the sale and movement of the wines in late September. At the time I thought this would be a very quick process to sort out. Nothing could have prepared me for how catastrophic this administrative error would be for my company and for my personal life. I have had to swallow my pride with the realization that my company’s reputation could be ruined from my lack of organization and foresight to hire other people. Maison Ilan has two teams of lawyers working with Customs to get this problem sorted out. As of now it seems that progress is being made in the right direction. I have struggled with the decision to write a post about this situation due to the inaccurate misinformation that has been posted on wine websites and blogs about my company. In the past, while attempting to be transparent about timeline projections, I have received resulting negative opinions when my expectations failed to be realized. This is why I hesitate to speak publicly without an exact date for wine delivery. I know that my clients deserve the truth, even if everything with this situation is not sorted out. Today I am responding to the best of my ability, given the information that has been provided to me.
Regarding the content of my wines, it should be noted that I never produced more wine than would be expected from quantitiy of grapes that I purchased. In fact, I was amongst the lowest producing winery in Burgundy, if not the lowest. Some have suggested that I never went to Burgundy, didn’t make my own wines, and that the grapes themselves were not from Burgundy. This accusation is completely incorrect and is an example of how gossip and internet trolls will reach to any lengths to bring down a targeted business. Photos, videos, and the testimonies of visitors and volunteers make this an obviously false claim to anyone with an unbiased view. From the beginning, I was quite transparent about every single aspect of the winery in my blog and through social media. I documented grape harvesting and bottling etc. because I thought it would be a great way for people to have a behind the scenes look at a winery. Providing this glimpse into the inner workings of my winery was never done for the purposes of proof, but today it does a great job of debunking these false claims.
During this past year, there has been an unprecedented interest in my personal life which is not connected to Maison Ilan. When I decided to do television interviews and write a book about my life, I knew I was opening myself up to a certain level of scrutiny. I never imagined, however, that my life’s work as well, as my family would be the target of such malicious gossip and rumors. To say that this damage to my reputation has been difficult, would be a huge understatement. This year alone, I have been called a fraud, hustler, thug, and creator of a Ponzi scheme. At first, I let these false and baseless accusations roll off my back. But when I started getting attacked for my role as a father, I knew that I had to speak out. In regards to the accusations of domestic violence, I would like to clear up as much as I can while also protecting my children’s privacy. My ex-wife and I were involved in a minor altercation while living in a “no-tolerance county”. This means that any visit by the police concerning a possible domestic violence situation automatically results in at least one person that is involved going to jail. Once a judge looked at the details of what had occurred between us, the case was expunged, deleted, and it is no longer a public record.
I would like to make clear the status of Maison Ilan. I am still the sole owner of the company. I have contracted with a local company that will house all of the wines, handle paperwork, and perform the bottling and shipping. Lawyers will continue negotiating with Customs regarding the full release of the wines throughout the process of relocating to our new business address. Despite all of the accusations, there is no great scandal. I made a tremendous error in the company’s paperwork, and it had an extremely damaging effect for the delivery of the wines.
To those that are still waiting for their wines, I wish to sincerely apologize to you. I have recently tasted the wines in the past month with two other winemakers. The quality is still very good. I understand that you put your faith in me by purchasing my wines in advance. To have negatively impacted this trust is something that I am deeply sorry for. Every effort will be made to make this right for you. I will continue to do all that is possible to ensure Customs releases the wines and that you are made whole. Updates on the status of the current wine deliveries will be provided to everyone as they are available.