This year's threat of a Champagne shortage has some people resorting to criminal measures. On Aug. 31, an armed gunman and two accomplices entered the warehouse of Wally's wine shop in West Los Angeles and made off with about $250,000 worth of Champagne that the California retailer had been stockpiling for the upcoming millennium celebrations.
"We've been in business for 30 years, and we've never had anything like this," said owner Steve Wallace. "We've never even been held up in the store. There's such a shortage of Dom Perignon and Cristal that it's easy for them to sell this stuff."
According to Wallace, the thieves made off with 65 cases of Louis Roederer Cristal 1990, 60 cases of Dom Perignon 1992 and an unspecified amount of Louis XIII Cognac, worth $1,000 a bottle. The most valuable items taken: Three limited-edition jeroboams of Cristal released for the millennium. "These were three of the 2,000 bottles released; they're worth $15,000 apiece," said Wallace. "We've been waiting for those bottles for years." The bottles are each clearly labeled with a serial number -- 325, 684 and 685 -- that Wallace hopes will help in the recovery of the Champagne.
Wally's, a prominent wine retailer in the Los Angeles area, keeps much of its stock in a nearby facility, separate from its shop. "You can't even tell what it is -- it looks like an office building," said a detective involved in the case.
According to the police report, at 11:20 a.m. on one of the days that Wally's receives large deliveries, a well-dressed man entered the storage facility and produced a handgun, threatening the employee waiting for the delivery. He then called in his two accomplices. "[The employee] was hog-tied around his hands, feet and neck," said the detective. "Two people carried him back to the storage room and laid him in the restroom, although they could only shut the door partway because he was tall." In less than 30 minutes, the three men carried out the cases and drove off in a truck or large van. The employee was later found by the driver of a delivery truck.
Nearby wine shops have been notified of the theft. The police investigation is ongoing, but there are no definitive leads. "They cleaned out the most expensive stuff there," said the detective. "They had to have knowledge of what they were taking."