Carolina Wine Company is AWOL

cwc-sign

Carolina Wine Company, one of the largest wine retailers in the Southeast, has been closed for nearly a week now, purportedly to address problems with its phone and ordering system.  There seems to be far more to the story, however, as wine wholesalers have gone unpaid, employees have left the company, and customers can’t contact anyone associated with the store.  I went by CWC early this evening and took the crappy photo of the sign on the door.  The phones are indeed down, as is the CWC website.  There is almost no wine in the front room.   As I was headed back to my car, a salesman from Turner Wines was hanging around and told me that he was trying to get his product out of the place.  According to a local wine merchant who has spoken to CWC employees, some wholesalers had been requiring CWC to pay in cash over the past several months.  Rumors have been running rampant on the Robert Parker bulletin board.   Their Charlotte store has been closed for some time now.

I don’t like to report on rumors, but the fact of the matter is that CWC is currently closed, and several people with whom I’ve spoken have not been able to contact anyone associated with the store.   I have also tried to call CWC owner, Chrish Peel, but he has not answered nor nor returned the calls.  Peel is also a co-owner of Enoteca Vin, which remains open for business is now closed, too.

I invite anyone associated with CWC to let us know what is going on and when the store might be expected to reopen.

Update on 1/27/09: Vin is now closed.

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27 Responses to Carolina Wine Company is AWOL

  1. Joe says:

    I’ve been trying…. These guys owe me $1200 of wine. Sounds like we need to find a good lawyer in NC?

  2. Jon says:

    I ordered a case of Sancerre from them in late October and they kept stalling as to delivery date…

  3. Chris says:

    I got wind they were having problems in October and have a very large exposure to them built up over a couple of years. They delivered more then they cheated me out of so I frankly didn’t notice how much they had balked on until I got worried because of rumors and paid attention. I have spent the last 4 months pestering them to try to work something out. Chrish was completely elusive and just stalled me, which was offensive given the amount of business I have done iwth them…a clear sign something was wrong. Obviously, he did that because he knew he was dead. They are almost certainly out of business. He is either a bad business man, a crook, or I am pretty sure it is a little of both. I think he is the Madoff of the wine business. This pre-arrival thing was a scam. He took the money and often didn’t place the orders. If anyone knows of anyway to group up and take action, post it here.

  4. John says:

    Same story here as Chris. Have to admit I’ve purchased many dozens of cases from them over the years and probably at discounts such that I haven’t done too badly. Still, they owe me easily 12 or so cases of wine from a 2.5 year period of time (many as futures). I agree that we need legal counsel. I do know a NC law firm, time to bring them in I think…

  5. Tom says:

    I am out a grand worth of wine. Pls post if you hire counsel.

  6. Eric says:

    I had the same experience as Jon – placed two orders in October and all they did was stall when I could get in touch with them. Count me in on the legal pursuit.

  7. Rick says:

    As a follow up to the CWC debacle, I too have purchase much wine over the years from CWC with no issues. Although I used to live down the street from CWC, I am now in KS and did not get suspicious until Dec 14 when I called about another failed delivery date on about 1 grand worth of wine. I don’t remember the staff person whom I spoke with but he was not overly forthcoming when I asked point blank if CWC was having business problems. At the time, Chrish (a likely crook) was still sending out emails on reasonable deals of 03 Sociando Mallet. As I was still not overly alarmed, I said I would take a case and to the credit of the staffer, he said that he would not charge me until it shipped. Should have known something was up right then. Anyway, my friends in Raleigh told me about the note on the door and I am disheartened. I hope that we can get some of our money or the wine. Given the small amount of money I’m out, it’s not likely to be worth hiring a individual lawyer, but I’m more then happy to join in a class action. Alas, caveat emptor rings true!

  8. Jean says:

    We also are in the same situation as many of you. As Rick indicated, we would participae in a class action, but we are not sure that the expense of a lawyer would be worth the expense. This is unfortunate as we have dealt with CWC for years with out issue up until last year. We are no longer in NC.

  9. MikeB says:

    I have to wonder what this will do to Vin’s wine selection… all they have stocked was CWC product (from what I could tell).

    I was about to place our yearly “restocking” order with CWC when the email came out about problems with their phones/system. Looks like I saved myself a good chunk of change by procrastinating. I’ve purchased numerous cases over the years and never had any problems (though only 1 or 2 cases were ever pre-arrival orders so that probably helps). Oh well, I was getting tired of making the trek from North Raleigh to CWC anyways.

    Anyone have a recommendation for wine shops with good selection in north Raleigh?

  10. Cindy H. says:

    Wow. This is incredible. I am a fan of Enoteca Vin, so I wonder what the effect will be on that place.

    But I am really intrigued by the $1000+ of orders placed. What do you do? Order certain cases from CWC? I’m just curious to the buying pattern. I’m a wanna-be-afficionado and have probably, over the past year, have been buying wine by the case…as in, one case at a time. :-)

  11. Maris says:

    I had years of good experiences with this company, but just like you started getting stalled in December on my requests for shipment. They now owe me five cases. I suggest that someone in the area should contact a lawyer; I will happily join in lawsuit. There is no problem at all establishing liability; collection is another matter.

  12. Tom R. says:

    If anyone is owed wine by Carolina Wine Company, please email me at CarolinaWineCompanyClaims@gmail.com. I have a few unfilled orders amounting to about $1000 and I’m sure others are similarly situated. If we have enough interest it may be worthwhile to pursue.

  13. Phil D. says:

    Does anyone know what has become of wine that had been shipped to Charlotte for customer pick up?

  14. MikeGee says:

    Over the last 2+ years I’ve amassed ~$1600 in futures orders. I am local, but only make it there once every 3 months or so (usually finished with a BBQ sandwich at ‘ole time). The last time there i noticed their warehouse significantly diminished in stock. In early December I called to cancel all orders due to lack of confidence that any of it would show up. The person on the phone was willing to credit my card. 1 week later, no credit, another call, stall, then only the manager can authorize that he isn’t due till the end of the week, stall stall… Then at the end of the month, the phones out email… I’m sending my details to Tom R.

  15. VaNC says:

    So, now i hear Vin has closed too.

  16. Chris says:

    As I said in previous post, I began badgering Chrish back in early October. It took me 5-6 weeks to get any response. He went through my list of outstandings (which is embarrassingly large). He offered me a refund on a lot of stuff in November. I then asked him no fewer than 5 times before their “phones went down” to send me a receipt showing he had credited my card. I even asked him once on the phone and he said he would take care of it. Of course, I never got the credit. Oddly, I did discover that they credited me for one another small order when I disputed the charges with Amex. I suspect we won’t be able to collect anything from CWC. Secured lender will probably get everything that’s left. However, I wander if we can mount a case to go after Chrish personally. The thought of this guy skipping off to the beach in mexico with money he has stolen (and I do think this guy is a crook) from all of us makes me furious.

  17. Roy says:

    I have spoken with the Sheriff’s Department in Raleigh and the NC Attorney General’s office. Both are just getting informed about the problem. The AG’s office apparently had only gotten complaints about wine futures; I was told that “since these transactions were more in the nature of investments than purchases” the case may be transferred to the NC Sec. of State’s office. I think they need to know more about those of us who had bought and paid for wine that was sitting (or so we were told) in his warehouse when they shut down.
    Although it can be a tough case to make, Mr. Peel just might have crossed the line between breach of contract and criminal fraud.

  18. Hannes says:

    I’d like to join the ever-lengthening list of long-time, generally VERY happy CWC customers, now searching for a way to get a fairly significant stash of pre-paid wines. If anyone finds a way to get in touch with the company that hosted CWC’s website, complete with purchase records, please let us know. For myself, I trusted these folks enough that I didn’t keep sufficiently detailed records on my end. Everything was always clearly and accurately listed on the CWC webiste. Likewise, if anyone in the Raleigh area does hear of a way to actually get into the store itself, I suspect that a good bit of our wine has been picked, and put in boxes with our names on them.

    On the plus side, I’ve contacted a couple of the distributors who regularly supplied CWC with some of their finest wines. These distributors have highly recommended the Apex Beverage Company, In Apex, NC, as a place that still sells great wines at fair prices.

  19. Dan says:

    This is so unfortunate. Considering the business that was built over time, I wish someone would purchase what remains of CWC.

  20. Roy says:

    For those who may be interested:
    I spoke with Jennifer Pulley of the NC Attorney Generals office a few minutes ago; I’m not the first person she’s talked to about CWC in the last few days. She told me I could fill out a complaint form and mail it to her. She would mail a copy of the complaint to CWC (likely a waste of time) and that she intended to continue her investigation into the matter. I’m guessing that the more complaints that are filed, the more attention the case will get. Squeaky wheel and all that…
    Here’s a link to the form:

    http://ncdoj.gov/DocumentStreamerClient?directory=Forms/&file=CONSUMER.pdf

    If the link doesn’t work, you can find the .pdf link on the Attorney General’s website at ncdoj.gov
    Keep those cards, letters and complaint forms comin’…

  21. allison says:

    I really have nothing to add to the CWC story, but for those who placed orders and credit cards were charged, call your credit card company immediately and request a charge back or fraudulent charge. Especially if you have a gold or platinum card, you should get your money back.

    Nothing nearly this large, but I had a magazine subscription from a magazine that went under and I was able to get a full refund from my card since the goods and services I paid for were not provided.

  22. BeeHart says:

    I’m out a $250 gift certificate. I ordered wine in Sept and when I arrived in early Nov to cash in I was told that the Charlotte office had not yet delivered it and to check later. Add me to the growing list. I’ve responded to CarolinaWineCompanyClaims@gmail.com and would suggest everyone else do the same.

  23. detlef says:

    Not much to add here but would like to address one post by Hannes. Your suspicion that there are likely boxes in the warehouse with your name on them is probably not right. I used to work for them (some time ago, mind you) and it was always policy to notify people whenever ordered wines made it in. I have to imagine that they realize that they’d be much better off simply delivering bought goods if they had them than sitting on them at this point.

    The problem was that CWC often dealt with a variety of importers and would commit to large amounts of fancy juice, then sell that juice with the promise of delivery at a later date. Problem was, they were chasing bills so the money they raised selling that wine, they used to pay for wines that the importer was holding that CWC had sold to someone a while before. Then when the juice you bought had arrived, they’d sell more promised juice to someone else at another later date to pay for yours, and so on. Thus, it is likely that nearly all the wine you all are speaking about that you paid for is sitting in a warehouse in France or somewhere waiting to be paid for and shipped. In other words, it ain’t gonna happen.

    Very unfortunate. I always liked Crish personally as well as all the people I used to work with there. None the less, it was frustrating to say the least how he chose to do things which had much to do with why I left. We’d get a hold of really coveted juice on the gray market for cheap and, rather than simply beating everyone’s price, we’d try to destroy everyone’s price even if it meant that we didn’t make any money on it. I never realized the logic in that. There’s a reason why we could sell such and such for $50 less than anyone else, because those other guys were actually selling it for enough to turn a profit and we weren’t. Was the intention to drive every other National wine retailer out of business? ‘Cause that was certainly not going to happen.

    None the less, I was really sorry to hear about all this and hope everyone involved is made whole.

  24. Roy says:

    On the other hand, Hannes, you may be right.
    In an effort to find anyone who could help, I called the Wake County Sheriff’s Department earlier this week and spoke to an investigator who said he would check into the situation and give me a call. This evening he called me from CWC’s office, describing what he found as he walked around looking through windows. I specifically asked him to see if he could make out any boxes with customer’s names on them.
    About ten minutes into the call, he announced that “some guy in a Mercedes” had just driven up, gotten out of his car, unlocked the door and walked into the offices. I guessed that he had just found the elusive Chrish Peel. He decided to speak to the man and said he would call me back.
    About 15 minutes later he called, and told me that the visitor was, indeed, Mr. Peel, and that he had spoken with him at some length about the business and the complaints he was receiving. True to form, Mr. Peel rehashed his business woes, including the troublesome economy, his telephone and point of sale problems, disloyal employees who had absconded with his e-mail list, etc. He did, however, let the investigator inside the building, where he viewed “hundreds and hundreds of boxes of wines, with customers names posted on the boxes. Mr. Peel acknowledged that the wine had been purchased by customers, but failed to explain what he planned to do with it.
    Although detlef is probably right, Peel was likely diverting funds, paying for other peoples wine with your purchase money, he is apparently still sitting on a boatload of “our” wine. Perhaps our efforts at this point would best be served by trying to make sure those “hundreds and hundreds” of cases of wine do not disappear while all this gets sorted out.

  25. Rick says:

    Roy,

    Thanks for this helpful information. I wonder if it is possible for the Sheriff to impound the contents of the business to prevent Peel from selling it off or whatever? Does anyone know if this is a viable legal option?

  26. Varmint says:

    Folks, I’ve had to remove a few comments from this discussion, as things have gotten out of hand. Please take your legal action discussion elsewhere. Any future comments on this topic will be moderated before being posted. Sorry I’ve had to do that, but there has been way too much speculation and not enough facts here to allow it to go on.

    Thank you.

  27. Paul says:

    In response to Mike B. perhaps try Wine N’ THings on Creedmoor RD ( Stonehenge Shopping Plaza). They have a very diverse European selection and lots of price points. They can generally get anything not on the shelves in a day or two and are pleasant to work with. They have been around a long time. Sorry to hear about all of the problems with CWC.

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