A Response and Update from Maison ILAN

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.

Sincerely,

Ray Walker

MAISON ILAN

Sharing the Experience: Behind the Curtains of a Burgundy Winery

IMG_0179

 

Anyone want to watch a quick 7+ minute video showing MAISON ILAN’s process from vine to wine? Take a peek! GoPro attached on the head and chest! It has always been a great pleasure to show Everyone behind the curtains, with a Clear view of what goes into making some of the best wines in the World! The secret is the vineyards and the hard work of leaving as light of a fingerprint as possible. It has always been about the fun of it all with videos like these, but they also serve as record of where our fruit comes from and how the wine is made… Hope you Enjoy the video!

To that end, I’ve also strapped on a GoPro while I’ve been picking. Here’s a beautiful vineyard in Chablis that as hand harvested. The locals typically harvested by machine. While that makes the job a lot faster and easier, it isn’t the best for the grapes. Here’s what I decided to do instead for a project with Ludo Lefebvre (with whom I appeared with on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations”:

Of course, I went a bit beyond just showing the pick during the vineyards, I also took a lot of pride in showing the process of sorting fruit, de-stemming it, as well as showing the fermentation, like in these videos:

 

 

Also, I loved showing everyone how the juice came from a vertical wine press that was over one-hundred years old and was used to fill barrels with only gravity.

So, how do I know where my fruit comes from, for sure? Well, there’s only one real way to know. Be there in the vineyards during the pick! I made it a point to always be in the vineyards during the pick and to generally post loads of pics and videos. Sure, no one else really did that in Burgundy, but there truly is something magical about this time of year and the activity that is involved in taking the grapes from the vines.

 

 

Stay tuned for more!

Team Building, lessons learned and doing things the right way

IMG_20140123_172038.jpg

 

A few short years ago, I started Maison Ilan. The plan wasn’t to get rich, or even to have a well known winery. The idea was such a simple one, that I called Maison Ilan a project from the time of its creation up until the last harvest. It was enjoyable to look at my winery as a bit of a Burgundy sandbox. A scenario where I get to explore behind the curtain and to see what actually made Burgundy tick. Part of my enthusiasm about my winery was based upon sharing this unique view with others. Besides, what good is an experience that you can’t share with others? Well, here’s the thing. Maison Ilan was a dream before it started. And once it started, it was officially a business. Sure, there are countless benefits that came of looking only to the fun parts of the business. This business was a tiny one, so it was easy to manage. And I made all of the decisions. I had no employees outside of myself. It was great. I could do well and pat myself on the back for a  job well done.

IMG_0167.jpg

Things change however. As the business grew, so did my family. The right thing to do would have been to anticipate the growth of the business and what would be necessary to move at a pace that was expected of a winery of Maison Ilan’s stature. But I didn’t. This was an error, for sure. And one that has had created a more difficult road. Make no mistake, I was at the driver’s wheel and foolishly thought that I was doing the right thing by prioritizing my efforts towards the winemaking. More to the point, I built many aspects of the logistic side of the business on a piece-meal basis. I’d look at the immediate and near-term needs of the business and shoot! Reacting instead of anticipating was clearly a mistake as well. Importers; bottling companies; cork suppliers and more were picked based upon their reputation with other winemakers that I respected. I should have done more due diligence, but my approach was more based upon trusting what previously was shown to work for others.

IMG_20150428_123213.jpg

Since I started Maison Ilan, there has been a feeling, an accusation rather, that my story, my opportunities and experiences couldn’t be more than something out of a fiction magazine. Over the years, I shot videos from handheld GoPros during harvest; hopped into tanks while making the wines; showed videos and countless photos of bottling; and otherwise communicated the steps and progress of making of Maison Ilan wine.  All the while a stream of international visitors and volunteers have made reports; tweeted; blogged or Instagrammed about their experiences working with me or visiting my winery. That said, it is still difficult for some to believe that I bought the grapes that I did and made excellent wine from them. This is, of course, in spite of piles of documentation (some of which were posted online and verified by respected names in the trade) backing up the legitimacy of my business actions. . We have had some delivery problems and other issues, but there are those who have blown these out of proportion and made accusations against Maison Ilan, and me personally, which were just not true. It seemed as though anyone could make a claim and it was cited as fact. Proving an accusation as a lie never resulted in a retraction, instead the detail of the hunt was increased. I took offense to this initially. However, I later embraced the fact that while I was living out my dream on a day-to-day basis, I myself was shocked at how much of a change my life had seen. To be sure, I didn’t have much of a plan coming into all of this. I wouldn’t have dared to imagine that all of these opportunities would be afforded to me. And while I find the rumors that I have heard and have been asked to answer to be baseless, I have always been an open book.

DSC_0007.JPG

With that, I’d like to clarify and correct some things that have been erroneously said or written: 1. I own 100% of Maison Ilan. All wines that have worn a Maison Ilan label have come from fruit that was purchased and made by me, along with a series of generous amateur harvest volunteers. I have never sought out, nor received winemaking guidance. 2. My divorce did not contain language relating to Maison Ilan, nor did it effect the business in any way. 3. Wine delivery was again delayed due to administrative delays that were entirely my fault, and no one else’s. The wines are still in the very same locations that they have matured in. There were three locations serving as maturity and storage facilities. The wines are to be consolidated in one location prior to shipping to ensure a simple storage and shipping process. We have a team that is working to make sure upcoming and future deliveries are done properly. There have been too many mistakes and a lack of execution. All of these mistakes could have been avoided had I taken help of others. I should have done it earlier, but I have learned from my mistakes. The team that is being put in place will include Customer Service representatives to ensure that everyone’s concerns are addressed. As we have said in the past, and would like to remind everyone of again, we are putting everything together in order to get wines out to Everyone. We will not be available for contact before we have the complete team in place.

20141020_151809.jpg

 

image1.JPG

 

Thank you again for your patience and support. If the above is not clear enough, I will restate in short terms. I apologize for the tardiness of the delivery of wines. The wines are safe and will be delivered soon.

Ray Walker

Owner and Winemaker

MAISON ILAN

So, what’s the latest with MAISON ILAN?

That question is something I hear quite a bit. Seems like I can’t complain about it when I should be writing more, communicating about all of the changes that we’ve been going through as a small company hitting growth spirt after growth spirt. To be sure, growing pains have been a part of it as well. I’ll save you from speaking about that. But, suffice to say, that MAISON ILAN isn’t the only entity that has been doing a lot of changing.

 

You see, I am MAISON ILAN. And when I started this business, I didn’t see it as “A business”. I saw it as “A dream”; “my dream”; “unbelievable”, etc. Sure, for so many others out there, they’d read a story about the winery getting made and say it was incredible. Well, I felt the same way, since none of this was planned. When I used to say that, people used to stand there, mouths agape. How can you set up a winery without any plan? The tone was placed as a compliment. But seriously, you can start a winery without a plan. The thing is that to RUN a winery, you very much so DO need a plan,;and to execute; look forward; be dynamic and have a solid team around you. I learned these things the hard way, to be sure.

 

Making wine has never been a difficult thing. for me, that came second nature. Grapes need to ferment, to be in a place where they won’t spoil. Cold temps help, being patient is nice, and egos should be checked at the door. I got that last part for the wines, but I believe that my lack of building a team earlier had some parts pride and some parts ego. I had never built a business before. And that is something that helped at times, with having a fresh look at things. Though it also helped in my being naïve about several aspects of running MAISON ILAN.

 

That was the past. A lot has changed in my view of life as well as how I view MAISON ILAN and my clients and how to best serve them our wines. First of all, a team has already started to be assembled. A team that is competent is of benefit to everyone. All wine production is still in my hands. However, a team is essential, and quite frankly has been since the beginning. The difference is that now, I have the focus and determination to put those key pieces into place. The winery is much more than simply making killer wines, it is the experience for the client, something that has been frankly missing.

 

A team is currently being put together to help run and execute on my views for MAISON ILAN. I’m a winemaker. That’s what I do. I can’t, nor should I wear all hats at one time. And to that end, you will be introduced to members of the team soon. Communication, efficient shipping and execution are now our prime focuses that run right alongside making great wines from these cherished vineyards that we are fortunate enough to work with.

 

To everyone that has been there since the beginning; those that supported us through guidance and tough (but honest) suggestion, I appreciate you and fully intend to execute.

 

Here’s to 2016 being an exceptional vintage!

 

Thank you again for your support!

 

Ray Walker

Sole Proprietor / Winemaker, MAISON ILAN

Status Updates on Shipping

Hello everyone,

it’s been a while since my last post. Lots of things have been changing at MAISON ILAN. We’ll get to most of these in the next blog post that is to follow shortly. For efficiency sake, it made sense to make a post here specifically for a shipping update and basically an all around statement regarding how wines will be shipped in the the future.

 

First and foremost, the remainder of all shipments will be out in the coming months as temperatures drop. Shipping in high temperatures poses a great risk on the wines being damaged. This is a risk that we will not take.

 

We are aware that our clients wish to hold their wines at the earliest time that is is safe to do so. And this is something that we certainly agree on. There have been drastic changes made during the time that we have been silently working on restarting the way we handle administrative procedures at MAISON ILAN. The focus has been on the client relation side as well as with shipping efficiency.

 

We are targeting Fall of 2016 as the period in which ALL wines (in bottle) having been on hold for shipping will be released to ALL clients WORLDWIDE.

 

If you have any questions pertaining your specific order, please email Rose@MAISON-ILAN.Com . Be mindful that while we are adding more staff to our Team, we are currently within a transition point for strengthening the winery, emails will be responded to as they come in. And most importantly, ALL wines (in bottle) will be shipped within cooler temperatures in FALL 2016!

 

 

Thank you again for your support!

 

All the best

 

Ray Walker

Sole Proprietor / Winemaker, MAISON ILAN

Update regarding Worldwide shipments and other developments

Hello everyone. We’re still doing harvest activities, which include taking the lovely 2015 vintage from tank to barrel. In the meantime we’ve been busy making substantial changes to the structure of Maison Ilan. One such change is hiring our first employee, Zack Velcoff.

Zack started interning with us this year just before harvest and, proving himself to be a great asset, has joined Maison Ilan full-time as Operations Manager. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Zack is a graduate of Cornell University. We are simply blown away at how capable he is, and how much potential he displays with ease.

Now, it may (or may not) come as a surprise to many of you, but up until this week, we’ve produced Maison Ilan out of an actual garage in Nuits-Saint-Georges, with our “office” consisting of no more than a spare room in my house, and our inventory (excepting a small quantity stored at the Abbeye de la Bussiére) crammed into the cave beneath the house. Sure, it generally did the job, but there were countless limitations. In my view at the time, “getting the job done” was the focus, which often led to difficulties on the administrative side.

Fast forward to today, and we have now moved past the archaic way of making 100% of the orders by a process of sending bulk emails, handling client requests, preparing invoices by hand, and aligning international schedules to make phone appointments to take payments. With our new online store, clients can shop for our wines whenever they wish and instantly receive their invoices/receipts. They can also track their orders, view order history, and do much more.

Moving forward with the way we sell our wines is important, as it simply wasn’t efficient before. Just as important is the rest of the process: order tracking, inventory management, packaging, storage, and shipments. This couldn’t be done with our old setup, but it should have been the setup from Day 1. We are now preparing to move to our new office, equipped with light, temperature, and humidity-controlled storage space for inventory in barrel as well as in bottle. This move, along with many other unfolding developments, allows us to do much more than just “get it done.” We no longer need to react to our growth arc, but are instead able to plan appropriately and execute.

As has been posted here in real-time, the 2011s and previous vintages have already been received by Adventures in Wine, and the 2012s and 2013s will be in California by the end of the month, in time for the start of shipping season as expected. This week we have resumed shipments for all of those in other parts of the World. Keep an eye on your inbox for shipping notifications.

Moving forward, we are going to continue to improve, in every situation and in every way. We are better today than we’ve ever been, but this is just the beginning. Stay tuned for Much more!

Maison Ilan Storefront: Bugs, bits and 2014s !

Hello everyone. Just a bit of a pop in to ask for your patience while we fix some of the bugs on the new storefront. Please ignore repeated emails. We are getting everything dialed in.

Also, we will have the email out tomorrow. However, 2014s are live!

Of note, you will need to Register a new Account in order to gain access to the store. Without this, you are effectively without an allocation. This site provides a great deal in the way of efficiency, but it also works wonders with its built in database and security suites. In short, this ticks loads of boxes for where we are moving towards. This will not be the final storefront. It is just the first iteration, with much more to follow!

All the best,

Maison Ilan Team

Visit Our Online Store Here !

The Online Storefront is LIVE! Progress, refinements, and more

Good afternoon! It truly is an amazing day. While in the general pursuit of refinement and progress, Christian and I both decided to make a few changes at Maison Ilan. For sure, there are always a great many things to do to improve. Over the past months, we started working on developments to improve the customer experience at Maison Ilan.

It is very important for us to know where our wines are going, and whose table they arrive upon. To that end, we are expanding our direct to client business, and will be exclusively direct to client in the USA. Many of you know about the three tier system and what effect this has on wine prices in the U.S.A. This has presented multiple challenges when working with U.S. importers. Therefore we have reserved our right to follow through on furthering our direct to client model.

The way in which we previously offered and sold our wines was cumbersome at best, and truly never aligned with our original goals for going direct to client. Quite frankly, my personal viewpoint of too much technology-based structure being problematic was best left in the winery. We have also learned that with the growth in which we have experienced, almost from the very start, we also need to look further down the road. Fortunately, we have made sweeping changes that will address many of the growing pains.

Without further ado, the online storefront is now finally up and running! Through this site, clients will be able to view and purchase their allocations; research purchasing history (since the creation of the site); track orders (in barrel, bottling and ready to ship, etc); get the latest information on our winery; view videos on current tasting impressions and much more. Receipts and invoices are automatically generated from the online storefront as well.

To be clear, there will no doubt be bugs that we will need to work through while testing this site. However, we are positive that this improved technology will help us provide a better experience for everyone involved!

Now, this is important to mention:

In order to populate the mailing list into the store with updated information from everyone, we have sent automatic invitations to those on the mailing list. This is not an obligation, it is simply an invitation. With that said, the 2013 vintage is now currently available on the site, with the 2014’s to follow shortly. Allocation tiers have been partially worked out. The 2014 allocation tiers will be fully fleshed out later. The current allocations are there for each client on the mailing list, regardless of whether you have previously purchased your allocation or not. Current inventory will now be live as well. Please note that allocations are subject to change, dependent upon current inventory.

We appreciate your support of our small family winery and look forward to celebrating many more vintages to come!

Visit the site here for details: Maison Ilan Online Store

All the best,

Ray and Christian Walker