Wine Appraisers News

Our wine appraisers and winery appraisers making news

Marc Lazar (CEO Cellar Advisors & Domaine Wine Storage) Arrested on Two Felony Counts of “Selling Wine Without a License”.

Marc Lazar, Cellar Advisors, Domaine Wine Storage

Domaine Storage in legal battle once again with another two felony charges.

On November 9, 2016 Marc Lazar CEO of Cellar Advisors, Domaine Wine Storage, and InsureYourWine(dot)com  was arrested on two felony counts of “Selling Wine Without A License”.  There is a pending Criminal Case No. 1622-CR04774 (State of Missouri vs. Marc Lazar). Read more about this developing story in the Don Cornwell article found on Wine blog.

Marc Lazar, sex offender, cellar advisors, domaine wine storage

You can’t trust him with your children. Why would you trust him with your wine collection?

Mr. Lazar was previously convicted on two felony convictions in 2005 for the Statutory Sodomy [1st Degree (2003)] and Statutory Rape of a Minor [1st Degree (2005)] of a minor.  The female victim was only 13 years old at the time Mr. Lazar committed both of these crimes. Marc Lazar’s criminal records may viewed on the Missouri State Sex Offender Registry.

During late 2015 the Cellar Advisors web site was decommissioned, and Mr. Lazar merged Cellar Advisor’s business operations into his other company – Domaine Wine Storage. Mr. Lazar was also a principal partner at one time for another company ( which brokered insurance policies to customers, insuring their wine collections. His current business relationship and official position status with this company is unknown.

During March of this year I appeared as an expert witness and wine consultant for the defense in the Federal Court Case (Great Northern Insurance Co. a/s/o D. Gideon Searle and Nancy S. Searle vs. Cellar Advisors LLC & Cellar Advisors LLC vs. Sataria Acquisition LLC d/b/a/ Flagship Logistics Group” (Case#: 1:12 CV 09343 filed in US District Court, Northern District of Illinois; Eastern Division). Mr. Lazar alleged that a portion of the eight million dollar wine collection belonging to Mr. Gideon Searle was, in his opinion, “heat damaged”. The Plaintiff’s claim was for 2.2 million dollars. Cellar Advisor’s insurance company settled with Great Northern Insurance (a subsidiary of Chubb Insurance) in an out of court for one million dollars. This ongoing federal court case, currently under appeal, has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.

For quite some time the mixed reputation of Marc Lazar has preceded him. It was rumored for years that Mr. Lazar had been selling wines without holding both the required federal and state licenses.  Allegations regarding Mr. Lazar’s brokering wine insurance policies without the required insurance licensing had also circulated. Most recently, Marc Lazar faced allegations that he brokered interstate truck  transportation without the required Department of Transportation licensing.

Thankfully the wine industry will hopefully soon see the demise of Cellar Advisors, Domaine Wine Storage, and once and for all.



Expert Witness Companies and Directories Fail Their Clients

As one of the nation’s leading expert witnesses and wine and spirits appraisers, I have been involved in countless insurance wine loss claims over the past twenty plus years. Some of these insurance claim matters have unfortunately gone into litigation when the either the Plaintiff and or the Defendant have not been able to come to terms regarding the agreed settlement value of the disputed insurance loss claim that is now in litigation.

When these fine and rare wine collection loss claim matters go into litigation, as a result of not being resolved through conventional settlement conferences, mediation, and or arbitration efforts, then either side finds themselves in need of a qualified wine expert and or expert witness. This is where I usually enter the picture in my role as the consulting wine expert and eventual expert witness in working for one side and or the other.

Expert witness companies and directories exist to fill this gap in providing what they believe to be an indispensable service to the professional clients that they attempt to serve. The methods often utilized by these expert witness companies are often unprofessional, self-serving, aggressive, unethical, and more often than not they do not actually provide their clients with the best qualified experts currently available.

These expert witness companies provide consulting experts and expert witnesses predominantly for law firms, but they also provide experts for insurance companies and private individuals as well. The methods most utilized by these expert witness firms is typically a published directory and or online directory. Some of these expert witness companies actually hire extremely aggressive recruiters to source their experts for potential clients.

Expert witness companies had their heyday back in the early 1990’s when the Internet was still young, and paper directories and recruiting firms were still in vogue. However, today virtually anybody possessing common sense and a modicum of intelligence can easily find their desired expert without the need of going through an expert witness company by simply using available search engines.

Many expert witness companies today are engaging in highly suspect practices, and some do cross the ethical lines or professionalism in fulfilling their self-serving goals of making large profits and commissions often at the expense of their nai

Hiring expert witness companies to provide expert witnesses is a waste of your valuable time and money.

Hiring expert witness companies to provide expert witnesses is a waste of your valuable time and money.

ve clients. For example it is a very common practice for online expert witness directories to charge their professional experts listing fees of $500 dollars or more to be listed in their directory. However, the listed expert’s identity, contact information, and or web site is never revealed, but instead simply assigned a profile ID number. This practice then forces the client to request the listed expert’s information for either an additional fee, and or entering into a mandatory agent contract. This is the proverbial Golden Carrot scam that the expert witness companies use to then charge those companies or individuals excessive fees to then obtain the contact information of the professional expert witness.

Before the expert’s information is provided to the potential client, the expert witness company coerces (i.e. strong arm tactics) the consulting expert into signing an “agent contract” with the expert witness company that then allows the expert witness company, acting as agent, to then bill the client directly. The expert witness company charges fees ranging between $150 to $170 dollars an hour which are then added as a surcharge to the consulting expert’s normally billed hourly rate.

Is this ethical? I don’t believe so. In many cases not only have the clients, and also the professional experts, already paid fees, but now they are being charged again by being forced to use the expert witness company as the intervening middle man and totally unnecessary agent. This is absolutely a scam.

Some of these expert witness companies also fail to understand that certain professions are forbidden by state and federal laws from publicly disclosing their fees for collusion and antitrust reasons. In addition to being a wine appraiser, I am an also a licensed auctioneer and the Sherman Act forbids me from publicly disclosing my fees. As an appraiser, USPAP (the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) mandates client confidentiality. The truth be known, the vast majority of these expert witness companies could care less about state and federal laws, and they will seek out and often find those that are willing to violate the law in satisfying their self-serving goals of making large profits at the expense of their clients. It is for these reasons that I have never worked, and will never work, with and or for an expert witness company.

My last experience with an expert witness company left a disgustingly bitter taste in my mouth. The company I am referring to is IMS ExpertServices. Their recruiting manager was so incredibly aggressive. She insisted on knowing my annual salary. She zealously believed that she possessed my correct email address and cell number because one of her research team members mistakenly believed they obtained my personal information, which of course was totally incorrect. In a bizarre twist of fate, this very same recruiting manager refused to provide her cell number to me when I requested her number. Another obvious double standard.

Long story short, I recommended that IMS ExpertServices Recruiting Manager simply charge her client a flat fee to place me with her attorney client. Rather than being concerned for her client (an attorney who needed to declare their expert on the following Monday), IMS ExpertServices sourced a much less qualified expert than myself, who agreed to allow IMS to charge their $170/hour surcharge above and beyond the expert’s disclosed rate, in order to get the job. The joke in this particular case was that I had also been contacted by the attorney client, and also the attorney’s client, who did exactly what IMS did by simply searching for me on the Internet. Of course, IMS ExpertServices got their exorbitantly high fee at the expense of their attorney client by placing the lesser qualified expert. Business as usual for IMS ExpertServices.

Finding a qualified expert witness is so incredibly simple, and especially with the Internet today. All one has to do is simply use any search engine and type in the title of the potential expert they are seeking. For example typing “wine appraiser”, “consulting physician”, and or “construction expert” will produce a wealth of available resources. You may also choose to look in very own community and use your own local resources by contacting local service providers in whatever area your expert requirements demand.

When contacting an expert, ask them the following questions: (1) How long have you been working in your profession? (2) What is your education or training in your field of expertise? (3) What licenses or certificates do you possess? (4) Have you published any articles, and or have you ever been consulted as a contributing expert to any articles or publications? (5) Have you testified before in court or any legal proceeding as an expert witness? (6) Do you have a curriculum vitae and or resume?

There is absolutely no need to pay an expert witness company to provide you with a qualified expert when you can easily source one for yourself at a fraction of the cost.

© 2015 Tom DiNardo
Tom DiNardo is a licensed auctioneer, certified appraiser, certified sommelier, consulting expert, and professional expert witness.

Appraisal Reviews Hold Alleged Wine Appraisers Accountable

The idea for this article came about as a result of a legal case I am currently working on. My client initially hired me as a consulting wine expert witness. My specific duties are working as a wine appraiser, wine consultant, and investigator. I had assumed that I was being retained to find fault with another alleged wine expert’s work. Ultimately, this proved to be true when I had performed an “Appraisal Review” as it is known as in the wine appraisal profession.

An appraisal review is in essence a professional review of another appraiser’s alleged

Wine Appraiser Tom DiNardo discusses the benefits of Appraisal Reviews with lawyers and insurance company representatives.

appraisal report. The purpose of the appraisal review is to confirm where the appraiser’s appraisal report either conforms to recognized appraisal theory and methodology, and or where it fails to conform to recognized appraisal methodology. Federal appraisal report standards were enacted into law by the US Congress in 1986, and these appraisal standards are known as USPAP (the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice).

Unfortunately, my client was enjoined into this lawsuit by the shady wine consulting company after this company was sued by the insurance company. The disreputable wine consulting company previously hired my client to provide outside services to them. The alleged wine consulting company currently advertises “wine appraisal services” on their web site, and the fact of the matter is that no one in the employ of this company is a qualified wine appraiser. The alleged wine consulting company is certainly not providing professionally prepared appraisal reports. They also do not meet the requirements for “qualified appraisers” and or “qualified appraisals” as found in the U.S. Pension Protection Act or PPA (P.L. #109-280 Stat. 708 [2006]) and or the Internal Revenue Service Notice 2006-96. Continue reading

Wine Appraisal – Protecting your Assets!

Many of us who are enophiles have amassed quite a valuable collection of fine and rare wines. We appreciate the artistry of wine, drink it regularly, and often boast to our friends when we acquire a wonderful treasure. This being said, we happily proceed with our passion and pursuit of collecting, never giving a second thought to protecting our wine as we do our other valued assets. Is your wine collection insured and has it been expertly appraised?

Cos d' Estournal Bordeaux Wine Appraisal

Cos d’ Estournal Bordeaux Wine Appraisal.

If you have a substantial collection of fine and rare wines, you should seriously entertain the thought of having your wine professionally appraised. Imagine the worst case insurance claims scenarios such as fire, flood, mechanical equipment failure (i.e. cooling unit in your wine cellar dying), and theft! These disasters could wipe out your entire wine collection instantly. Does your homeowner’s insurance policy [The following insurance companies offer wine insurance policies. Firemans Fund, Travelers, Chubb, and AXA.] protect your wine collection currently? In most cases, your homeowner’s insurance policy would require you to obtain an additional rider to your existing policy to protect your wines. Your insurance company requires that a dollar value be placed upon your entire wine collection, and this valuation is usually performed by an expert on valuation, a certified wine appraiser. Continue reading

Buying Wine at Wine Auctions

As restaurant professionals, wine enthusiasts and or dedicated collectors, we are always looking for ways to acquire rare or harder to find vintage wines. The wines we desire are often unavailable or on heavy allocation from local wine and spirits distributors. Have you considered the alternative of buying wine at wine auctions?

Charity wine auctions

Wine buyers at a local charity wine auction.

Wine auctions can be very entertaining, challenging (even to skilled bidders), but most importantly rewarding. Believe it or not, wine auctions can offer some real buying opportunities. It is not uncommon for many wine auctions to offer “sleeper lots”, or those wines that are flying low under the radar of public awareness and perception. Sometimes it is just a matter of timing, and a great buying opportunity comes up immediately and then disappears just as fast with the loud report of the auctioneer’s gavel and his hallmark cry, “sold”, being spoken from the auction block. In their zeal to win their prized wines, many bidders will not only sacrifice pride but also a great deal of money in order to accomplish their objective. Here are some of the basics regarding auction etiquette and rules to help you on your way to becoming an adept bidder. Continue reading