Most of wine stolen from French Laundry restaurant is recovered

Russ Parsons
The California Cook
Most of the $300,000 worth of wine stolen from French Laundry Restaurant is recovered

The $300,000 worth of wine that was stolen from the French Laundry restaurant on Christmas Day has turned up — in Greensboro, N.C.

Capt. Doug Pike of the Napa County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that the wine had been found. “We recovered the majority of the wine but there are a few bottles still outstanding from what I understand from the investigators. But the bulk of it is recovered.”

Pike refused to comment beyond the basic facts “in the interest of protecting the integrity of the investigation.”

The restaurant refused to comment as well, referring all calls to the sheriff’s department.

The cache of wine, 76 bottles with a minimum retail value of $300,000, was stolen during a break-in at the storied Yountville, Calif., restaurant that occurred sometime during Christmas evening or night.

The French Laundry had just served its last meal on Christmas Eve before closing down for as long as six months or more for a complete kitchen remodel.

The break-in was discovered the day after Christmas when a groundskeeper found the door to the unmarked wine room jimmied open.

Among the bottles taken were vertical collections of Burgundies from the Domaine de la Romanee Conti, some of which would sell for as much as $15,000 a bottle.

Also taken were older bottles of Napa cult Cabernet Screaming Eagle and prestigious Dom Perignon Champagne.

The restaurant and the sheriff’s department spread word of the theft quickly, hoping that someone in the tightly knit world of wine collectors might have some tips. 

It’s not known how the connection was made with the North Carolina location, and Pike refused to say whether they had ended up in a private collection or the wine cellar of another restaurant, though a report from the Associated Press had it in a private cellar.

“We just wanted to let folks know that we have recovered some of the wine,” he said. “No arrests have been made to date, but this is an ongoing investigation and we ultimately hope to arrest those responsible.”

Suspicion turned almost immediately to someone with inside knowledge of the restaurant. 

“We suspect it was deliberately targeted due to the quality of the wines,” Pike told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time. “Whoever was responsible seemed to be selective. There was a small window of time when employees weren’t there, so obviously someone took advantage.”

But as chef/owner Thomas Keller said then, that included a wide group. “We have 130 employees, we have dozens of delivery people every day, we have hundreds of guests,” he said. “Someone close to the restaurant? Yes. Somebody who knew where the wine cellar was? Certainly.

“But that could have been the linen delivery guys, the wine delivery guys and any of the people who service the restaurant, as well as everybody who ever worked at one of our restaurants over the years. That’s a lot of people.”

The French Laundry is one of the most famous restaurants in the United States and the world. Open for 20 years, it has earned the coveted Michelin three-star rating every year that award has been given in the United States, and it is regularly included in any list of the best restaurants in the world.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

9:10 a.m.: This post has been updated with more background information about the theft and the wine.

4:50 p.m.: A graphic of the wine bottles' location has ben added to this post.

This post was originally published at 8:50 a.m.

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