The spectacular rise & fall of Maison Ilan

Update 21.9.2017(27.10.2016)billn

 Image cite:

The research for this article began in mid-August 2016, following this post on the UK-based Wine-Pages internet forum. I embarked on this research from the perspective of ‘can there be smoke without fire?.’ The article itself was over 90% complete in the first week of September, but I wanted to be fair to Maison Ilan / Ray Walker; so I chose to wait until October to see if he, or anyone else, from that ‘Maison’ turned up to collect grapes at harvest time – and hopefully to speak with him too. If nobody from Maison Ilan came to collect grapes, then at least in their old guise as ‘wine-makers,’ this label was effectively over and it was time to finish the article — and nobody came —

cellartrackerI make no apologies for placing such a large warning sign against this producer. Anyone who is still tempted to invest in these wines, should do so with absolute clarity about the true position of the producer – and their wines – unfortunately with at least two claims to the stock and a customs investigation underway, clarity is in very short supply. Not for nothing does a Google search bring Buyer Beware close to the top of the search rankings.
The 2014s of Maison Ilan were still for sale online – see here – until almost the end of September 2016 – yet, as you will see, these wines languish in their barrels (still), along with their counterparts from 2015 and even some barrels of 2013s – all seemingly untended after being impounded by local authorities in France. Whether they will come out of any ‘process’ still in a merchantable quality will have to be proven.

This producer began life with a relative ‘bang,‘ yet Maison Ilan seems to be fading to the proverbial ‘whisper.‘ What that means is that a massively hyped start-up by a charismatic newcomer to Burgundy, to all intents and purposes, is over in its previous guise, because nobody came to collect grapes during the 2016 harvest, indeed no producer was selling grapes to Maison Ilan this year. Walker gives the impression of surprise and says “Nobody contacted me, and I was completely shut out of the 2016s” – yet for months, in private, growers and middle-men (courtiers) were already distancing themselves from him.

This is some of the story of Ray Walker and Maison Ilan:

But I never said that it would be a short story…
  1. A good story, oft-told
  2. The first cracks, forensic analysis and hyperbole
  3. A bolt from the blue
  4. So today, what is the real situation(?)
  5. A question session with Ray Walker
  6. A personal opinion
  7. Additional Reference Material:
  8. April 2017 update from Ray Walker:

1. A good story, oft-told

Ray Walker first described his dream of moving to Burgundy to become a winemaker on various wine fora, particularly, but not least, the well-known Wineberserkers forum, and Tom Cannavan’s UK-based Wine-pages. I was also one of the the parties that gave Walker a platform for his campaign of self-promotion – perhaps it didn’t start that way, but that became the feeling; between December 2008 and February 2010, Walker ran a diary of his achievements on my own website here. Whilst slowly becoming more uncomfortable with the obvious self-promotion, I found a fascinating, unfolding story, one that clearly broke all the old molds! I delayed a visit before eventually going to taste his wines, as you can see here. His 2009s were okay, but his 2010s were better. I felt like taking a chance and made a modest order for some 2010s. In my report, I noted that no wines had yet been delivered. Later, this would become a theme.

ray-1Ray Walker did his self-promotion with chutzpah, but it got him his start – I have no doubt that many were jealous of his success; interviewed on Fox TV and gushingly, and serially, profiled by both Bloomberg (here, here and here!) plus Eric Asimov in the New York Times, Walker had the world at his feet – indeed he had a great story to tell.

Today, at least, type ‘Ray Walker Maison Ilan’ into Google, and you will get over 33,000 hits. Mostly the well-curated stories that Walker liked to spin around himself, his family and his new enterprise, but if you add to your search the name of the biggest wine-notes database – CellarTracker – then google will offer you the warning, pictured above.
(Right image cite: Maison Ilan email newsletter, 04-Feb-2016. “Maison ILAN 2014 Winter Release!!!”)

There were a few sticking-plasters that I noted in my dealings with Walker;

  • On one occasion he told me that he wasn’t happy with my tasting note for one of his wines, despite that I considered it a good wine. I simply chose to move on without any comment of my own. Shortly afterwards, Walker decided that he didn’t want critics to come and review his wines – they could come and taste but not publish what they found! Walker clearly wanted to control the public message.
  • Likewise, Walker let it be known that he was very unhappy that (in some public place or other) I pointed out the fact that, that he wasn’t the first American to make grand cru burgundy wine in Burgundy.
  • Then there was the Corbeaux-gate which came after he read what I thought about one of his wines. You can see how the conversation with Walker developed in the link – but despite warning him of my experience before I published the note – so that he could comment directly – privately he accused me just trying to get more visitors to Burgundy Report. Whilst Walker offered to replace those Corbeaux bottles with ‘correct’ ones, I pointed out that I’d already paid for correct ones and declined his offer.

I developed the opinion that Walker was something of a control-freak when it came to any public discussion of his wines and operation. Of-course, a highly strung winemaker with an occasional dodgy cuvée is nothing new – in Burgundy as much as anywhere else. And, for a long time, it could have stayed that way, if it wasn’t for a single, seemingly small, request to Walker on Wineberserkers by a customer who felt cast adrift.

2. The first cracks, forensic analysis and hyperbole

It began with a customer’s post on the Wineberserkers forum, annoyed at delays in their Maison Ilan order delivery, coupled with Walker’s delay responding to her attempted communication. This was the opening of the floodgates:

“I have tried for the past 4 days and 2 emails to get an email response from Maison Ilan, Ray Walker on the shipping of the balance of the wine he owes from 2010 Gevrey Corbeaux and when the 2011’s will be shipping. I tried a fb message too.

I checked with Crush Wines in NY is also waiting for word.”As for the Maison Ilan we’re waiting on word on both the Corbeaux and the 2011’s. Ray seems to be a little slow with the updates. We’re hoping the wines are on Polaner’s container leaving next week, but to be honest we have no idea.”

Does anyone know what is happening with the wines and when they’ll arrive?
Ray are you there?”
Cite: Wineberserkers

The follow-ups were relatively unremarkable, until Walker wrote that he had been far too busy to reply, and that the delay was only 4 days, hence, he was surprised the poster had to resort to the web-forum. Her response took the forum dialogue to a whole new level:


Here are my facts.
You only came out to discuss, once the thread was started. Your excuses to me over the phone call were, my wife is pregnant, you have a cold, you were busy with your barrel of chablis and the weather is crazy in NSG. from the time I sent my original email on Tuesday October 29 at 10:40am until the time I started this thread Friday November 1 at 5:35pm, Your call came at around 7:40pm, 2 hours after the thread started.

On October 29th at 7:28pm you deleted 3 of your posts on the “All of Us at Wine Berserkers Described on Twitter” thread. You were also quite busy on October 30th posting family pictures, barrel pictures and telling BMW stories and interacting on facebook.

it seems to me you had plenty of time in the 3 days after I sent my email to be online, but not to respond through email or social media.
Communication with you in my limited experience has been difficult. Timeframes estimated by only you have not been kept, all for the improvement of what’s in the bottle. Time will tell.

I am done chasing your wines, I just want what I purchased and paid for years ago.”
Cite: Wineberserkers

This was like opening the flood-gates to all manner of anti-Walker commentary. Much seemed to be completely out-of-order and full of hyperbole, but it was clear that Ray had been squarely knocked from his pedestal. If you query Wineberserkers today (26-Oct-2016), you will find 216 pages of threads dedicated to the discussion of one man and his business – Ray Walker – which puts the quantity of commentary, much of it negative, at a higher level than that of convicted fraudster Rudy Kurniawan. There was much vitriolic comment, so it came as no surprise when Walker decided that he would no-longer be part of the ‘Wineberserker community.

If Walker thought that the commentary might begin to die down if he wasn’t present as a lightning conductor, then he was mistaken. Slowly the multiple internet sleuths began to uncover various facets of Walker’s history that he would have preferred to remain buried; it started with BMWs, or rather BMW parts, but then people uncovered later transgressions – a domestic violence charge, an act apparently initiated because his wife drank an expensive bottle. The latter when first posted, even obliquely in the form ‘would people buy wine from a wife beater’ on Wineberserkers, without actually naming Walker. According to one observer this oblique reference caused “Walker to go “totally ape shit” and threaten to sue everybody, including Todd” i.e. Todd French who is the owner of the Wineberserkers website. I asked Todd about this:

“Ray did threaten legal action with regard to allowing the first revelations of wife beating, and I believed he would sue at the time so I did take it down – it subsequently re-emerged, as xxx (redacted by me) loves to stir the pot. Eventually I called Ray’s bluff and allowed it to be there, but at the initial time, he had investor money and was itching to use it to sue.”
Cite: Todd French

Privately, many people claim to have been warned of ‘legal consequences and cease and desist orders by Walker, but few will are prepared to add their names to their assertions. Such legal transgressions are recorded as public records in the USA, so it is also possible to see that this conviction had one further repercussion – it cause Walker to lose his ‘Real Estate license’ – if Walker’s heart wasn’t in wine-making before, it certainly was now.

Such a background is not an impediment to being able to run a wine company – it is clear that second chances should be allowed – and here Walker had a golden second chance with Maison Ilan.

If the background ‘chatter’ on (not just) wineberserkers was to be even partially believed, then Maison Ilan was clearly administratively dysfunctional, due to so many partial shipments or late shipments of wine – but they were also clearly producing wine each year and decent wine too. Despite a (seemingly) never-ending story of new importers and ‘now the logistics should work fine‘ and a constant background of sniping onlookers, and often customers too, the background noise remained stable.

3. A bolt from the blue:

“I am told, by someone I know and trust, but who does not want to be named, that the douane have seized all of Maison Ilan’s 2014 and 2015 wines to recompense unpaid growers.

If you have ordered any of this you may not be too late to protect it. I gather Ray has fled the country.”

This was really a bolt from the blue – it was quickly taken-up on Winebererkers too. A few emails from me resulted in a telephone conversation with the ‘someone I know and trust,’ source of the wine-pages info, but also somebody who wishes to remain anonymous. Frankly I was surprised at the source, because I well-remembered a previous discussion with this burgundy producer, when they were highly supportive of Walker – when I had just listened and held my tongue – quite rare for me!

The UK commentary was measured, with typical understatement, the site owner Tom Cannavan encapsulated the thoughts of many writers who had been exposed to Walker:

“I feel sorry for him – but more for customers and creditors if things don’t work out – but I have to say I was not tempted to buy anything from him, largely because I was uneasy that all he registered on this forum for was to publicise and sell his wines it appeared to me, and after his second year of what was clearly a commercial sales pitch I had a quiet word by PM, which he answered very rudely. On a personal level I wanted nothing to do with his wines because of his attitude, which with hindsight might have been a godsend…”
Tom Cannavan, 24-July-2016: wine-pages/form

I had personally assumed that Maison Ilan would endure, eventually paying an employee – i.e. not Walker – to take on the administrative tasks that Walker himself clearly seemed unsuited to complete. But this news was, of-course, something very different.

4. So today, what is the real situation?

In this section:

  • Unpaid rents
  • Customs investigations
  • A question of ownership…
  • Additional legal process(es)…

Most Burgundians take great pleasure in knowing the detail of what their neighbours are up to, and you can even get them, occasionally, to talk about it – but on record? Never! Multiple sources offered info for the purpose of this article, but only on the condition of anonymity.

But not all remained anonymous in Walker’s case; whilst one of his courtiers may have chosen to invoke client confidentiality, another, Monsieur Javouhey, whilst standing in the vines of Chambertin (04-Oct-2016), simply said “Oh I don’t work with him anymore,” and walked away.

Unpaid rents
The family Gouges are perhaps the best-known family, with the best-known domaine, of Nuits St.Georges. I am thankful that they were very open about the situation with Walker and Ilan. It was from the family Gouges, since at least 2010, that Walker rented a house with cellars below the living accommodation – which became the home of both Maison Ilan and the Walker family. I will summarise (and translate) the various information provided by the Gouges family below:

  • ‘The house/habitation is owned by a family member, and was rented to Ray Walker – there was never a domaine or négociant activity at this address. We would like to emphasise that Domaine Henri Gouges had no direct relationship with this Maison Ilan operation.
  • Mr Walker did not pay his rent for a year so the house was seized by a bailiff. The bailiff changed the locks and kept the keys. We did not have access without the presence of the bailiff (hussier)
  • Informally, we know the service de la viticulture (douanes/customs) also raided a number of locations used by Mr Walker because the required taxes were not paid.
  • The wines at those locations have been seized / sealed, and a number of judicial proceedings are ongoing against Mr Walker.
  • In France for taxes, you must declare whether the houses are residential or if there is a professional activity. The house we rented to Walker has always, and still is, declared as residential …
  • Now that it is the customs who are involved with the company Ilan, they have even changed the locks again and sealed the premises, prohibiting access to everyone – neither we nor Mr Walker can go inside before the customs procedure is completed.
  • I think the wine in barrel (2014?) is still here. The bottles were removed before the search.’

The stock of Maison Ilan bottles were originally removed from Nuits to a location in Pommard – roughly 3,500 bottles of 2009-2013 vintages – before being moved to another location in Beaune. The Maison Ilan wine that is still in barrel, rests in Nuits, Beaune (the same location as the bottles) and the Abbaye de la Bussière.

dsc01011The barrels at the Abbey de Bussière are in a beautiful and historic location. Although the barrels here (right) are kept at ground level, rather than an underground cellar, the temperature is certainly cooler than ambient. The owner of the Abbaye was very happy to see barrels in his ‘cellar’ – so much so that he allowed Walker to keep barrels that he was aging there, rent free, as it made this location look more attractive for visitors. Today, these barrels are held under the lock and key of the hotel owner – on the advice of the hussier (bailiff), though seemingly with no involvement of the Douanes.

*I asked the Investigations department of the Douanes if they would be prepared to shed some light on the situation, and whilst polite, Clément Delagrange, Chef du Pôle Action Economique, Direction Régionale des Douanes de Bourgogne comments only that “Customs can not, for confidentiality reasons, communicate on any ongoing cases. This is so as not to harm to the operators concerned, nor disclose its working methods.

A question of ownership…
Now is the time, then, to discuss the concept of ownership. I well remember my surprise when I received this email in August 2009:

I am considering investing in Ray Walker’s, Maison Ilan, burgundy initiative.
Ray forwarded your name as a reference. I was wondering what you could tell me
about Ray and anything you know about his start up.

Note that I had never met with Walker at this time, yet I was, without warning, one of his references. I could only comment “If enthusiasm is enough, he’s your man, but I think you need more info/background than I can provide.” The person concerned tells me that he actually did back Walker, but “Gave up buying wine after a couple of vintages.” – he has offered no further comment.

Locally in Burgundy, and also on web fora, people have been questioning whether Walker is even a part of the Maison Ilan setup today. This has been prompted by a significant investor in the business, named Casey Cowell, paying some of their bills (according to a source who asked to remain anonymous at one grape supplier) and spending a significant amount of time in Burgundy, devoted to the business. I put some questions to Cowell, and he was polite but to the point; “Thank you Bill for reaching out to me, but we do not have any comments.

Even in August of this year on his Maison Ilan blog, Walker has been describing himself as “Sole Proprietor / Winemaker, MAISON ILAN,” yet in the last mailshot from the Maison Ilan team, Walker is not mentioned, and it is signed off by the ‘The team of Maison Ilan.’ I also note that Walker now uses a gmail address, rather than his previous email address – clearly there are open questions here. Before I had a long discussion with Walker, he offered only the following by email: “Please be aware that as ‘xxxxx’ (PR) informed you, there are legal limitations I have regarding divulging some information.”

Additional legal process(es)…
Legal limitations? Well, this response obliquely references the fact that there is not just a customs investigation into Maison Ilan and legal process to recover owed rents et-cetera, there is another legal process underway between Casey Cowell via his Grand Coup, LLC business entity and Maison Ilan. Instigated in March 2016, this is not a commercial legal action, but rather a criminal (pénal) action brought against SARL Maison Ilan, conducted by the Direction Générale de la Répression des Fraudes. The press office of Les Fraudes in Dijon offer no comment while this process is underway, and these can be lengthy investigations.

5. A question session with Ray Walker:

Ray Walker has been very little in France in the last months – seemingly eyeing new ventures (you just have to check out his Facebook and twitter feeds) – but I was able to speak with him by phone as he was actually in Burgundy for some of the harvest period. Here are some of the issues, which I put to Walker:

  • Nanson: What happened in the 2016 Harvest?
    Walker:The harvest came, but I got shut out, my courtier just said ‘Last in, first out,’ and that was it. In some respects it was something of a relief, as due to the weather conditions I wouldn’t have got many wines – probably only grand crus, and that wouldn’t be feasible for many clients, plus margins are much lower there. Over the years I rarely got the amounts I had paid for and had to accept other things I didn’t want, just to keep the contracts running – it was sometimes brutally unfair. I really have enough material to write a second book. My lender suggested anyway that we miss a harvest in 16 and then pick up the contract again in 2017 – I had to tell him that it didn’t work like that.
  • Nanson: If the wines are seized and even if ‘Maison Ilan’ believe that they have a high confidence level that the wines will return to their possession, they will have been left untended, for months. There is a significant chance that the wines have suffered, potentially to the extent of not being merchantable.
    That being so, why are the 2014 wines still available for sale (last checked 21-Sept-2016) on Maison Ilan’s website or by the mailing-list? Is taking money for wine that you do not have (and may never have) not fraud?

    Walker:Well, let’s be clear, the issue with the customs was just an honest mistake and I am working with them, and in a friendly fashion too, to get this situation sorted out very quickly. Also the wines are not unattended, as I have a cellar-master in Nuits St.Georges*
    *Note the family Gouges maintain that these premises are sealed.
  • Nanson: Investigations by the Douanes are typically very serious affairs – what can you tell me about yours?
    Walker:Well, it’s really just a misunderstanding, and the people at the Douanes are very friendly. Simply put, they have offices in Beaune and Dijon. When they changed their address in Beaune, and I couldn’t find it, I simply started sending everything to Dijon – unfortunately the two office don’t speak with each other. This should take another week, at the most, to sort out.*
    *That was the first week of October, and currently there is no status change.
  • Nanson: What about the court proceedings between you and Casey Cowell?
    Walker:It’s complicated, and there are some things I can’t talk about. There is an element of miss-communication here, but I can’t say anymore, as I don’t wish to make it worse.
  • Nanson: Ignoring for a second the proceedings between you and Cowell, it seems that you are no-longer part of Maison Ilan as a) you’re very little in France and b) the mail-shots are now signed ‘the Maison Ilan Team.’ Has the ownership transferred to Cowell?
    Walker:I’m 100% owner of my business. Investments by others are based on a debt position, there are no shares given to anyone, no rights, no bottles, nothing. And the Maison Ilan ‘team’ is Me, my cellar-master, my PR and an administrative assistant. It is actually much easier to write like that, as people seem to take pleasure in disassembling everything that I sign my name to. It’s clear that whether by ego or personal satisfaction, I took on way too much in some circumstances, but I’ve also learned from it.
  • Nanson: You’re saying then, that everything is about miscommunication or misunderstandings and that everything will be quickly fixed. But then why are so many customers still missing wine?
    Walker:Well there were significant problems with third-parties in the distribution chain.
  • Nanson: Maybe so in the US, but what about the UK? Importation is significantly easier there…
    Walker:Well it’s true that I did give priority to the US, call it the squeaky wheel problem, but the UK customers really had much less ‘attitude.’ Clearly there was still plenty of disorganisation – some got 2012s before 2011s – and I admit that this was my disorganisation. But every last bottle that is owed will be with those customers in the Fall, November probably.
  • Nanson: Really? You know that in December the Fall is over and it’s now winter – We will be able to judge directly if you are a man of your word, or not?
    Walker:Well it’s an estimate of-course…

6. Personal Opinion:

It’s such a crushing shame (no pun intended) that it should come to this. Let nobody underestimate the amount of work it takes to source and transform grapes into wine – it is not just hard, manual work, it is also very hard to manage the relationships with suppliers – particularly for a ‘one-man’ operation. That Maison Ilan successfully turned grapes into bottled wine from 2009 to 2013 is an achievement, but that wines from 2013 onwards (may!) lie untended and ‘seized’ in barrel is a shocker. It is particularly galling for producers with a similar approach to market; one who prefers to remain anonymous (so they are not accused of voyeurism or worse) told me:

“I have a lot of time for Ray as a person, but honestly, the way he has run his business puts people like me in a very difficult position. It worries me greatly that people who put their trust in us, and send us their money up to a year before we deliver their wine, might become much more reticent in doing so.”

There is always the possible explanation that driven and immersed in the dream of be a winemaker, as Walker clearly was, that he was simply an awful administrator; As things became worse and worse, debt and an ever more vocal base of critics made their voices known, that maybe he began to take some shortcuts – the various legal proceedings will deem that so or otherwise.

There can be no doubt that Ray Walker has been the subject of intense scrutiny by those that would love to find a chink in all his statements, though indeed, even in my discussion with him, it seems the promises come much more easily than the substance. The chances to build something like this are both golden and incredibly rare, yet there remains a total lack of clarity here, and while that persists, why would anyone put money before they had their wine?

Of-course if all the UK customers have their back-orders of wine by the 21st December 2016 (that’s when Fall ends…) then there might still be a chance for ‘Team Ilan.’

7. Additional Reference Material:

3 – Maison Ilan’s 2014s still for sale despite their seizure

8. April 2017 update from Ray Walker:

I will leave readers to determine if there is anything new here, or whether we have heard it all before – a number of times…

A Response and Update from Maison ILAN
April 3, 2017 / Ray Walker /

Website no-longer online (September 2017) so see here:
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.

Thank you.
Ray Walker

There is one response to “The spectacular rise & fall of Maison Ilan”

  1. billn5th November 2016 at 6:49 pmPermalink

    I think it’s important to put this info out in the open.

    A ‘source,’ apparently from Burgundy, previously contacted Todd (of Winberserkers) with info about Walker/Ilan. Todd passed that source onto me when I started to research my article: … ison-ilan/

    The source passed lots of infos, but always from a made-up facebook messenger account (, and stated that they would remain anonymous. Some infos provided were screenshots of documents that I had no official access to – I did ask through various official bodies – the answer was no. The source also asked not for me to use the screenshots directly as it could lead to their unmasking. These infos did lead to to new infos that I could personally vouch for and that I used in my article. I told the source a number of times that I couldn’t do anything directly with anonymous infos that I legally could not have in my possession. I had to remain suspicious of someone I hadn’t actually met – this I carried through with other (only) telephone discussions with 3rd parties.

    I had quite enough info for the article – and it was certainly a negative article to both Walker and Ilan. Directly after the article was published, and from dozens of private contacts after the publish date – only this ‘person(s)’ was completely negative – apparently I had shit in my pants and was in the thrall of ‘some relationships’ or-other in Burgundy. I chose to ignore.

    That a Winberserker contacted me, today, with the message below, I find insidious. I have no idea who this person (or persons – I suspect husband and wife, but…) is, but they certainly seem to have an agenda. For me, it was entirely possible that this could have been somebody associated with Walker setting a trap for legal proceedings. But let’s look at some of THEIR assertions:

    Reasons of personal/professional ties: The article is about Ilan. The only possible acquaintance that the writer could be alluding to is, in-part, referenced by the subject of the 2014 Echézeaux: the anonymous writer claims that Ilan tried to sell these barrels (and some Charmes-Chambertin) to Maison Faiveley, but the Echezeaux was shown to be faulty so the transaction didn’t happen – earlier in this thread I gave detail on the alleged problem with this Echézeaux – Of-course I asked Erwan Faiveley, and he said he knew nothing about this – at this stage, who would you believe? I wasn’t going to publish that Erwan was lying based on illegal (for me) documentation. As a side note, it was Faiveley who got the Chambertin contract that Ilan vacated, potentially pertinent, but nothing to define an article.

    Cuverie contents scattered across the courtyard: heresay, no proof.

    Poor communication: between Walker and his supplier is hardly unexpected from him, but not illegal.

    The quote from Mrs Walker: about the hussiers breaking into the house and there being no electricity: the ‘source’ got that from me! Naturally, I also spent time with Mrs Walker, but of-course there is a divorce in-play so I couldn’t directly use all her infos, it simply guided me in the follow-up ideas for research. Note that there are lots of divorces, and lots of people being shitty to one another, but that has nothing to do (per-se) with the failure of a business, or illegal actions. For that reason I chose not include ‘Ray is being a shit to his estranged family.’

    People can make their own inferences about the motives of this anonymous source – or indeed mine! – but as I said, I find their continued machinations as insidious. I think I included quite enough in my article – and of-course there was more – and there is now even more now after publication as people contacted me who are happy to stand behind new infos – but I want to move on, and to write about wine…

    Received today:


    Bill, we have not interacted much but I am a longtime member of this board with far too many posts. I am also an attorney, so let me say that I understand if you do not want to comment on what I am about to send you. I received a message via facebook from someone I don’t know. I get the sense it’s probably legit but I don’t really know. Any thoughts?

    Anyhow the entire message I received is as follows:

    Hi, it is suggested to me to contact you, I believe you are a member active of the forum Wine Berserkers. I am writing today on condition of anonymity, and forgive my English, I do speak little so I use Google Translate for that one understands.

    I am one anonymous source of Mr. NANSON in his article on Ilan House. He and I have communicated for many months while he was writing that article. I live in Burgundy I have access to lot of inside information. Here below informations with supporting evidence shared with Mr. NANSON but for probably reasons of many acquaintances and friends he has with major players of the wine industry Burgundian, many of us have the distinct feeling that his personal and professional ties have influenced the content of his article.

    The following was not published in his article. For the good of all consumers who bought the wines Ilan House or those who will do so in the future, if you could publish the following on the forum Wine Berserkers, it will greatly help many people avoid buying these wines and getting scammed.

    In spring 2014, April or May – I could verify again with my friend to confirm the date – a friend who is neighbor of Ilan House in Nuits-Saint-Georges had been using an electrician to do electrical work outside of his house. When the worker is mounted on the roof of the house, he had a perfect view of the courtyard Ilan House, what he saw was astounding: crates and cardboard boxes filled with unlabeled bottles of wine, all full with corks, hundreds of bottles all on which it had already rained the day before, part of lot was coverd with a transparent plastic sheet, the boxes were wet and bottles scattered here and there in the back yard lying under a blazing sun of the afternoon. The electrician went back the next day to finish the work, the crates, cardboard boxes and bottles had not yet been moved.

    These wines remained there for at least two days, if not more, they were definitely damaged but never the consumer will know.

    This story circulating since among some wine people Burgundian who simply could not believe it, but this is indeed true event. Since this event, many people have lost faith in Ilan House and are very suspicious of the quality of wines Ilan House and professionalism of Mr. WALKER.

    This information was confirmed by Mrs. WALKER during a private conversation with a very active member of the forum Wine Berserkers. She claimed the wines were thrown away by her ex-husband and never sold. How can one throw away so much wine and lose so much money? Hard to believe Mrs. WALKER. All these damaged bottles with corks soaked and cooked wine reported publicly by consumers have likely been caused by this situation. We are convinced that these hundreds bottles were sold and never thrown away.

    Echezeaux 2014, 2 casks bought from Ilan House grape suppliers at €33 000 total. Ilan House owed much money to an important negociant in Nuits-Saint-Georges, they both agreed that the repayment will be made with 2 casks of Echezeaux and 1 of Charmes Chambertin all 2014 vintage. Following a lab test in 2015 Spring made by that negociant, the 2 casks of Echezeaux 2014 produced by Ilan House were declared defective and unsellable wine – or as said in France, vin non marchand – since volatile acidity was over the top at 1.85 g / l, while France regulations don’t allow winemakers to exceed 0.9 g/l. The repayment agreement was canceled by the negociant. Nevertheless Ilan House promoted and sold his 2014 Echezeaux untill recently, to how many consumers and wine shops worldwide? Only Ilan House knows. This certain is fraudulent.

    Regarding contracts grapes Ilan House lost recently, we confirm Ilan House will never recover them and is fully responsible for the loss of these contracts. The supplier which Mr. WALKER bought grapes CHAMBERTIN, CHARMES-CHAMBERTIN and MAZOYERES from the very beginning of its operations had very hard time reaching Mr. WALKER to discuss details of harvest 2016 soon starting, which he said to be anormal. In one week before harvest on these 3 plots since, Mr. WALKER never answered him, this supplier has decided to permanently end the relationship with Mr. WALKER and Ilan House. It is ultimately an important negociant who took over the contract Chambertin grapes that Ilan House had since 2009.

    About the divorce of the WALKER and the situation Mr. WALKER left his entire family, wife and kids, penniless while he was oversea for his new project INSATIABLE films, this message received 9/4, 4:11pm:

    From Mrs. WALKER yesterday: “I continue to have another shoe after another shoe drop on me! Yesterday the Hussiers broke into my home while I was gone, and they are working on taking everything down to our beds! It’s a really sad and worrisome situation that me and my kids are undergoing.

    Today my electricity got shut off, and I only have 1000 watts until Monday or Tuesday. I imagine that with everything coming to a head it means that we are getting closer to being done with it. At least, that is what I am praying for. I still have no word from Ray. It is as if he doesn’t even care about all of this happening, or he is just worried about his own skin.”

    Please publish this information people need to know the story complete.

Burgundy Report

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