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Carl Kanowsky: The scream that was heard ’round the world

Posted: July 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.

As some of you know, my wife, Terry, and I have hosted three annual wine tastings to benefit the Boys & Girls Club.

Our first event, back in 2009, featured an Australian winery Mollydooker, along with the wife portion of the husband/wife ownership team, Sarah Marquis.

For those who attended, you will remember Marquis teasingly starting us off on their “Lefty Series,” a collection of wines that retail for $25, and were delightful. 

Then she ratcheted up the offering with the “Party Series,” about $50 a bottle, and unbelievably better than Lefty.

She then brought out what everyone was sure to be the star of the show, the “Love Series,” which included “Carnival of Love,” twice named by Wine Spectator as a Top 10 Of The Year wine. Wow, what a wine. And only $100 a bottle. What a bargain.

Well, we felt fully sated by that point, when Sarah, with a sly grin, told us we were all going to get a taste of Mollydooker’s Holy Grail, the Velvet Glove. 

This wine, only made in the best of years and in tiny batches, comes in a classy velvet bag with a uniquely shaped bottle and retails for a minimum of $200 — when you can find it.

That small taste we had rose head-and-shoulders above everything else, which was amazing since we thought we had already tasted perfection.

We’ve been loyal fans of Mollydooker, Sarah and Sparky, her husband, ever since and have coveted the Velvet Glove.
That is why I collapsed when I heard what happened to Sarah and Sparky last week.

Sparky was getting ready for his annual trip to market his wine. He had loaded up all of his bottles for shipping to California to be ready to meet him here. He thought everything was going fine, until…

He got the call. While loading 462 cases (that’s 5,544 bottles) of the precious and rare Velvet Glove onto the ship, the forklift got a mind of its own and dropped the whole pallet of wine 20 feet. 

The fall destroyed 461 of 462 cases — a loss valued at more than $1 million.  That is when the wine world could hear the bone-chilling scream of Sparky.

Sparky still has a sense of humor, however.  

“When (the dock workers) opened up the container, they said it was like a murder scene — there was red everywhere — but it smelled phenomenal; they were really impressed with the smell,” he said.

Fortunately, the shipment was fully insured. And Sparky has about another 1,000 cases of Velvet Glove, which have now become that much more valuable and probably costlier, remaining.

And this is where I get to why this story is in the “It’s The Law” column.

I tell all of my clients to make sure their insurance agents understand exactly what business they are in, and the risks they face. 

This seems pretty basic, but several folks have not done this. Like the product manufacturer who had not told his agent that he makes products. That’s why he didn’t have product-liability insurance. 

Or the businessman who owned several related businesses. He had failed to let the insurance agent know about some of them, so those were operating without coverage. 

Take your agent out to lunch and bore him or her to tears with all the details about what you do. Then ask, “Now, I want insurance to protect me in all phases and aspects of business. I want the policies to specifically state that. Can you do that?”

If the answer is “no” or you get a deer-in-the-headlights look, talk to another agent. And when you find someone who says he or she can handle this, check up on the agent and make sure the insurance products you buy are the ones you need. It’s too late to do something about it at the point in which you need to submit a claim.

Also, if you are shipping expensive goods, make sure you have a clear understanding about what happens if you are a “Velvet Glove victim.”

You can shift the risk of loss and can assure who’s responsible if something happens. But just like the insurance — you’ve got to do it before you ship, not afterward.

Carl Kanowsky of Kanowsky & Associates is an attorney in the Santa Clarita Valley. He may be reached by email at Kanowsky’s column represents his own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Nothing contained herein shall be or is intended to be construed as providing legal advice.


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