Earlier this month, The New York Times reported Anthony Cailan, 29, sommelier at Manhattan’s The Usual and “rising star” of the wine world, had been accused of sexual misconduct by four separate women, including wine professionals Raquel Makler and Sarah Fernandez. Fernandez, 29, a wine sales representative, told Times reporter Julia Moskin that she was coerced to his apartment late at night under the pretense of work. Once there, she says, “he kept putting his hands on my thighs, he kept trying to get into my underwear. He would not take no for an answer.”
Makler, 22, who moved to New York in order to work for Cailan, told the Times that she had also been asked to stay at his apartment late one night while he sobered up. Makler said he then kissed her, touched her, and “repeatedly tried to penetrate her.”
Two more women, quoted anonymously in Moskin’s reporting, detail similar experiences with Cailan.
The report also recounts how Makler emailed notable wine writer Alice Feiring about Cailan’s behavior and wine culture generally last March. In emails published by the Times, Feiring is quoted as saying: “Remember, he is not much older than you. He has more wine knowledge sure. But he was still just a kid who has some growing up to do.”
Moskin’s landmark reporting has made waves up and down the wine industry, particularly in the natural wine subculture to which The Usual caters and Feiring is considered a journalistic pioneer. Feiring has since apologized, writing: “Parts of [the correspondence] were printed, completely out of context. Of course, it wasn’t Raquel Makler’s fault. Of course, I wasn’t blaming her. I wish I’d paid closer attention to what she left unsaid and have been able to provide more on-point advice and comfort. However, wishing doesn’t make it so. I can only try to learn from it and do better from here on.”
Following Moskin’s reporting for the Times, Cailan has resigned from his positions as beverage director of both The Usual as well as the Nolitan hotel. In an email to the New York TImes Bogdan Docu, general manager of the Nolitan, said that while the establishment was unaware of any of the allegations against Cailan, they do “not tolerate any form of harassment in the workplace.”
Wine and Spirits Magazine (whose complementary cover story on Cailan—“Best New Somms”—has been cited as the catalyst for the women to come forward) has since removed Cailan from their list of wine stars, and released the following statement:
As of November 7th, 2019, we have withdrawn Anthony Cailan from our list of 2019 Best New Sommeliers. Wine & Spirits is committed to continuing to encourage diversity in the wine industry and a dialogue around respect for all members of the wine community.
Marissa Ross, Wine Editor at Bon Appétit and a leading referral source in the original New York Times article, published a follow-up piece in Bon Appetite’s blog Healthyish. In it, she stresses the importance of sexual harassment of programs such as Safe Bars that are specifically designed for staff members working in the beverage industry, or The Color Code of Conduct, a discrete “code-word” system created by Erin Wade of Oakland’s mac-and-cheese restaurant Homeroom.
Anthony Cailan has denied the allegations, telling the Times, “The truth is, these allegations against me are false. I look forward to the opportunity to clear my name.”
This story is developing.