The debtor has a taste for the finer things in life, and we suspect that among his most valuable assets is an extensive (and expensive) collection of fine wine. But how much the collection is worth and where it’s located remain unknown.
Every oenophile knows that proper storage is vital to preserve their collection. Efforts to store a wine collection adequately are liable to leave a paper trail. For instance, are there records of any recent purchases like large-scale wine refrigerators? Or perhaps there is evidence that the debtor bought the tools necessary to build a do-it-yourself wine storage space. Look for purchases of lumber supplies, refrigerators, and temperature- and humidity- regulation appliances.
If the debtor isn’t the DIY type, look for records suggesting that he retained a construction crew. Evidence could include payments to a construction company, as well as construction permits and public records indicating an increase in property value due to the new construction. Even court records might be useful—sometimes construction projects result in litigation. Fact summaries in court documents may provide information on the project, including the names of the contractors who may be knowledgeable on the scope of the collection.
Some debtors are unwilling to store their wine at home, preferring to rent space at a wine storage facility. You need to call all nearby facilities. They may have information on how large a space has been rented. Also, check with movers in the area who may have been hired to deliver the wine to a storage facility. They may have a sense of just how large the collection is.
Serious oenophiles insure their collections. If there is access to the debtors’ financial statements, look over his insurance coverage and check to see if he’s made payments to insure his wine.
In some instances, debtors will increase their wine collections as a way to lower their cash reserves. Has he taken any trips to areas known for good wine, like Sonoma County in California, or France? Be on the lookout for payments to shipping companies or cargo charges to airlines that transported his purchases. Has he paid any membership fees to wine clubs that provide access to wine directly from vineyards? Or could he have had any wine shipped to him? A thorough check of customs records may provide information on any deliveries from overseas.