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North Bay vintners raise concerns about new wine brokering/consulting firm run by failed entrepreneur and convicted felon.

 

NOTE:

 

This article has been updated on May 10, with new information emailed by Anthony Hsu, CEO of Maxwell Winery

 

In addition, this article was updated on May 8, following an email exchange on May 7, 2021 with Richard Cardoza, after he was sent a draft of the article for comment.

 

Further updates, if needed, will be posted at this link.


Richard K. Cardoza, a failed wine entrepreneur along with a convicted felon partner are the key players behind Sybaritic Selections which appears to be a wine brokering and consulting business that bills itself as:

“The single source solution for wine & spirit procurement, compliance, transportation and 3-tier distribution.”

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Screenshot from SybariticSelections.Com taken on May 5, 2021. Wine Industry Insight has been unable to verify that Vivino, Costco, and the other companies featured in the screenshot are actual partners of the site.

 

The Sybaritic Selections effort is in partnership with Jacob Moynihan, a convicted felon previously reported on by Wine Industry Insight.

 

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First tips came from vintners

The first leads on this article came from multiple North Bay vintners who had been contacted by Moynihan and other representatives of Sybaritic Selections who said they were trying to source wine.

 

“We were enthusiastic at first,” one vintner told Wine Industry Insight (WII). “We gave them some samples, but when it came time to discuss terms and payment, they were very evasive about who would be paying us and when that might be,” the vintner continued.

 

A second vintner said that, “the fellow (Moynihan) couldn’t tell us when our wine would be transferred…or how or who. There are a ton of regulations about who can legally take possession of wine in bond, and we never got a straight answer.”

 

“He (the Sybaritic Selections representative) didn’t act like someone who had any experience with buying or selling bulk wine. He made a lot of exaggerated broad statements and used other language that felt odd. ”

 

All of the vintners contacted Wine Industry Insight because it had previously reported on the representative, Jacob Moynihan. Moynihan who appears to be Cardoza’s partner because his name is on the fictitious business name registration in Sonoma County.

The Sybaritic Selections cipher

The vintner contacts with Wine Industry Insight led immediately to the SybariticSelections.com web site which was little help.

 

The site has little content and lists no address or email, and contains only a fill-in-the-blanks information request form, along with a phone number and  an email address.

 

There are no names, qualifications or biographies on the site as are common among company sites.

 

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The first indication that all was not kosher

The site’s only indicator of legitimacy came from the prominent endorsement from Anthony Hsu of Maxville Cellars, Saint Helena:

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Wine Industry Insight‘s research found that there is no winery called Maxville Cellars in St. Helena. However, there is a Maxville Winery (sometimes inaccurately referred to as Maxville Lake Winery) in St. Helena at 4105 Chiles Pope Valley Road.

 

When WII visited the Maxville winery web site, it found Anthony Hsu working there as CEO.

 

But this is clearly not the same person portrayed in the Sybaritic Selections web site:

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Joke? Or Not?

According to the Maxville Winery web site, Hsu is CEO.

 

Accordingly, the use of Hsu’s name as a caption to a fictional Sybaritic Selections testimonial may be an inside joke  because Cardoza sells wine for Maxville Winery: this according to Hsu who had no comment on the association of his name with a clip-art photo.

 

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Vague Sybaritic Selections website, unsupported claims

The Selections web site contains no names or biographies of its staff and absolutely no information to justify any of its wide-ranging claims of specialized expertise and capabilities.

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That, and the bizarre use of Hsu’s name for a bogus testimonial was among many reasons Wine Industry Insight decided to dig deeper.

No licenses found

Wine Industry Insight was unable to find any alcoholic beverage licenses or other business-related licenses for Sybaritic Selections.

 

However, winesearcher.com lists it as a producer: Sybaritic Selections, Producer, 3200 Soscol Avenue # 330 Napa, CA 94558. Cardoza indicated that the listing referred to wine being made by Monticello Cellars. Further investigation showed that the wine was indirectly being made on Cardoza’s behalf with a small Midwestern distributor as an intermediary.

 

Details are still fuzzy, especially as regards the sale of the ultimate sales of the wine. More details are available further down in this article in the section regarding the wine’s federal Certificate of Label Approval.

All roads to Sybaritic Selections lead to Cardoza. First stop: Vinium

The rudimentary Sybaritic Selections web site then led to a wider search for information about Richard Cardoza.

 

Among the most prominent mentions concerned an ill-fated IndieGoGo crowdfunder on behalf of a fledgling wine company –Vinium — that Cardoza was trying to launch.

 

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From Cardoza’s comments on the site, it looks as if the IndieGoGo crowdfunding site was launched in about May of 2016.

 

The main photo (above) implied that the Vinium wine existed. Indeed, a May 9 update from Cardoza implied that winemaking was underway.

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More photos from the IndieGoGo site offered the impression that Vinium wine existed even though it had not been.

No COLA, No Wine

According to the federal Trade and Tax Bureau’s Certificate of Label Approval site, there is no record that Cardoza ever filed for approval of the label. Indeed, COLA ever existed for Vinium wine until six were filed less than two months ago by Monticello Cellars. (more 0n that below.)

 

Cardoza did receive a trademark for Vinium, but allowed that to lapse according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

 

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Illegal Without a COLA

Cardoza insisted multiple times in his email exchange with Wine Industry Insight that Vinium wine existed and that it was poured at multiple tastings. However, without a COLA, the wine and the tastings would have been illegal.

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Cardoza is to the right of the keg in blazer and white shirt.

Again, the inference that Vinium wine actually existed:

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Cardoza is surrounded by wine, but none of it is Vinium as the photo and crowdfunding context imply

 

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Again, the implication.

11 Months after IndieGoGo Crowdfunding launch, Vinium goes belly-up

Cardoza’s  farewell to his crowdfunding investors:

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Brief, Sudden and Unusual Exit from IndieGoGo

Many crowdfunding campaigns do not succeed. Supporters understand that they are taking a flyer on whomever they support.

 

But throwing in the towel less than three months after the launch is rare. And disappointing.

 

However, the fact that Cardoza’s California ABC license was about to expire could have contributed to the situation.

Take The money and Run?

Failed IndieGoGo sponsors often refund unused funds, donate them to charity or offer a consolation prize. Cardoza in his farewell update,  Cardoza held out hope that that supporters might see some future return.

 

At the conclusion of his final update, Cardoza wrote:

“Everything offered in the campaign will be redeemable but at a bit of a later date. Parties, tickets, products and Tibetan celebrations will take the place of the celebrations I had hoped to deliver to you from VINIUM. You will all be invited to attend!

“I hope this is acceptable to all. 

“Warmest regards,

“Richard”

Five years later, that has yet to occur.

After Vinium, Cardoza goes off the rails

Even as Vinium was dying, Cardoza was looking at a host of other so-far-unrealized ventures that he shoehorned into the Vinium Facebook page.

 

This included the Tibetan spirit company mentioned in his IndieGoGo farewell letter (above).

 

On the Vinium Wine Facebook Page, Cardoza noted:

 

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But that didn’t materialize in 2017 as he had asserted in the letter to his IndieGoGo crowdfund donors.

 

However, even before the Tibetan spirits dream had faded, Cardoza had begun chasing the cannabis dream by changing the Vinium Facebook page to reflect the new pot quest.

 

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Indeed, on Cardoza’s personal Facebook page, he mentions starting a new job at Cannavino which accounts for the round logo and cannabis leaves adorning the Vinium Facebook page.

 

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The 4105 Chiles address of Cannavino Wine used for the Facebook post is that of Maxwell Winery which was used when Cardoza registered Cannavino Wines LLC with the California Secretary of State in July, 2018.

 

The address of Cannavino Wines LLC was later changed to 3200 Soscol Ave., #330, Napa. The LLC has since been suspended:

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Maxwell Winery in Deep With Cardoza

In addition an April 23, 2016 article in South Coast Today,  a small Cape Cod-area Massachusetts newspaper, identified Maxwell Winery’s current Executive Winemaker George Bursick as Cardoza’s Vinium winemaker and partner.

 

Bursick was emailed for comment on this article. But no reply was received.

 

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While not yet confirmed, knowledgeable wine industry sources express the likelihood that Cardoza was trying to strike a deal with Maxwell Winery for them to custom bottle the Vinium brand wines. But the deal ultimately fell through when Cardoza was unable to raise enough money — through IndieGoGo and other sources — to follow through with the deal.

Cardoza’s “enhanced” resume

Among the questionable items discovered during Wine Industry Insight’s research into Richard Cardoza were a number of statements that appear to be vocational enhancements.

Sr. VP. Operations and Development, Juslyn Vineyards

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Winery owner Perry Butler told Wine Industry Insight that the job title was inaccurate, that Cardoza had served in a much less prestigious position, and was terminated,

Sr. VP. Operations and Development, Maxwell Winery. Sr. VP. Operations and Development, Maxwell Winery.

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Anthony Hsu CEO of Maxville Winery, emailed Wine Industry Insight on the evening of May 9 and wrote:

“Mr. Cardoza was formerly employed by Maxville and worked in the capacity of business development. The timeline on the Linkedin may not be accurate.

“He is not presently employed by Maxville. However, he is working in the capacity as a selling broker dealer to arrange, assist and support the selling of Maxville produced wine to his own affiliated network of retailers with the company he is currently with, that is Sybaritics.

“Please do not imply nor publish that Mr. Cardoza is presently employed. He is not.”

In a May 7 email to Wine Industry Insight, Cardoza said he had edited his LinkedIn page after receiving the draft of this article.

Cardoza Claims Master Somms As Associates

Cardoza’s LinkedIn page (now edited as of May 7)  listed non-existent relationships with prominent Master Sommeliers, at least one of whom says she refused t0 accept his offer for “pay for play” reviews.

 

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The Master Sommeliers referenced in Cardoza’s statement said they had never worked with Cardoza. Ms. Fallis added that Cardoza had offered to pay her for wine reviews, but that she had refused.

Vinium Resurrected?

While federal records indicate that Cardoza himself never sought federal approval for the Vinium label, a current check of the Trade and Tax Bureau’s Certificate of Label Approval site indicates that six label approvals were granted on March 12, 2021 — less than two months before this article was written.

 

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According to the TTB COLA Registry, the potentially resurrected Vinium wines are being produced by Napa Valley’s Monticello Cellars. While the details are still unclear, a Monticello Cellars official confirmed that the wine was being sold to a Midwestern wine distributor he declined to identify.

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Further, that official said that Monticello official told Wine Industry Insight that Richard Cardoza was the primary contact with the distributor and had represented himself as an employee of the distributor.

Whither Sybaritic Selections?

Complaints by vintners,  the often disjointed performances by Cardoza and Moynihan, and the absence of personnel experienced in compliance, transportation and 3-tier distribution as promoted by Sybaritic Selections so far leave the company and its future uncertain.