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$20,000 bounty for stolen wine

Story of break-in heard around the world



Bearfoot Bistro owner André St. Jacques is worried about the 65 bottles of wine that were stolen from the restaurant’s extensive collection of rare wines. But he is still optimistic that the bottles, including some rare signed editions, will be recovered and has offered a $20,000 reward for their recovery.

In the meantime, the bottles have to be handled carefully and stored in a cool, damp place to retain their value.

"The longer we wait the more concerned I am over where the bottles of wine are being stored. If they’re not handled properly they are going to be ruined, and won’t be as valuable if they are recovered," said St. Jacques.

The wine was believed to have been stolen in the early hours of Jan. 27, and St. Jacques believes the thief or thieves may have hidden inside the restaurant until after closing. Because many of the labels were rare and difficult to resell, St. Jacques also believes that the wine may be destined for a private collector, who hired others to steal the bottles.

After the theft St. Jacques went online to find out how much it would cost to replace the bottles and came up with a figure of $200,000. One bottle varied in price from $7,000 for a mint condition bottle to $950 for the exact same vintage, but with a damaged label and some seepage.

The list of stolen wines includes bottles of Mouton Rothschild Bordeaux, including bottles personally signed by the late Baron Philippe de Rothschild, ranging in vintage from 1946 to 1982. Mouton Rothschild also commissions artists to design labels, and some of the labels in St. Jacques’s collection were signed by artists like Andy Warhol, and Jean-Paul Riopelle.

There will 11 bottles from Lafite Rothschild that were taken, including a 1945 bottle valued at $7,000. Other valuable wines include vintages from Chateau Margaux and La Mission Haut-Brion.

In addition to the reward, St. Jacques has been talking to private investigators as well as working with the police.

St. Jacques is also increasing the security of his 21,000-bottle wine cellar to prevent any further thefts.

"It was organized, it was a professional hit, and they did a good job, but we’ve changed our whole system so it’s not going to happen again," said St. Jacques.

Meanwhile, St. Jacques says the story is becoming an international intrigue. In Canada the story has been featured in The Globe and Mail, The Province and The Vancouver Sun, as well as Global Television, City TV in Toronto and Vancouver and the CBC. South of the border he has spoken to the Seattle newspapers, as well as papers from as far away as Palm Springs.

In addition, the theft is being investigated by Interpol, and was picked up by news outlets around the world. St. Jacques is receiving e-mails from customers in Hong Kong, New York, L.A., and Europe.

"One client from Germany somehow found out about it, read it somewhere in the news, and they have a very large cellar and were offering to send me some vintages from it. People I don’t know from all over are sending me lists of wine for sale," said St. Jacques.

The last time the Bearfoot Bistro had this much attention was when Rockefeller imposter Christopher Rocancourt, arrested in Victoria in 2002, was revealed to have had a tab at the restaurant while living in Whistler.

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