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Posted: Sunday, 03 November 2019 14:45

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New York Celebrity Sommelier in MeToo Quagmire

Nov 03: In what might explode into a classic case of #MeToo episode, a well known Sommelier dubbed as the Best New Somm and the future leader of the $300 billion global business, working in an upmarket New York Restaurant has been accused of sexual assaults by 4 women, writes Subhash Arora who fears this could happen soon in India too where budding women Sommeliers could be exploited and who may keep quiet, fearing for their careers but in such cases must come out in the open and contact sympathetic women lawyers

Within a month of being on the Cover page of the October issue of Wine & Spirits magazine, the 29-year old and charming Sommelier Anthony Cailan has been accused by four women of his professional circle of sexually attacking them or trying to, according to a news Report in New York Times. Of course he has denied the allegation.  

Raquel Makler, 22 says Cailan hired and mentored her as a manager at a Los Angeles wine bar, then invited her to move to New York to work for him in his brother’s restaurant.  He asked her to come to his Manhattan apartment late one night to keep him company but forcibly kissed and touched her inappropriately and tried to have sex with her as she was frozen with panic.

Sarah Fernandez, 29,  a sales representative in a wine company in June was invited by him for tasting the wines she was selling. They ended up at his apartment, she said, where he became sexually aggressive, pressing her against the sofa with his body, pushing his hands up her skirt and ignoring her objections, until she had to push him in order to leave. She concedes she consented to go to his apartment and even making out with him. But she strongly resisted when he kept putting his hands on her thighs and more and just would not take no for an answer.

The two other women like to remain anonymous and believe their careers would suffer if they spoke out against him. But both described incidents similar to the one Sara described- the late-night meet-up and invitation to his apartment, followed by sexual aggression.

Denying the episodes Cailan reportedly said in an email on Tuesday that ‘The truth is, these allegations against me are false. I look forward to the opportunity to clear my name,’- a statement apparently under advice from his lawyer.

Over the last two years few complaints have been lodged by women in the wine business, still a male-dominated field where many women feel that the workplaces are dogged by a toxic combination of “bro” culture, free-flowing booze and sexual aggression. Both Makler and Fernandez believe that rejecting Cailan’s sexual advances could ruin their careers. Each told a co-worker about the incident soon afterward, as corroborated by The Times.

When Makler’s experience was shared by New York Times to people in Los Angeles who knew Cailan, some of them saw it as part of a troubling pattern that had begun years before. In January, five of his former co-workers, including his former employer Jill Bernheimer, the female owner of an influential a wine retail store sent him an email asking him to stay away from their workplaces. Without providing names or details, they said they had heard accounts of his treatment of women that made them deeply uncomfortable.

Subhash Arora

In India where the wine industry is still quite young and there are not many female sommeliers, the problem could be well fermenting sooner or later. Women who feel they have been mistreated ought to come out in the open and complain to the police or contact the sympathetic women lawyers, lest it turns into an epidemic as seems to be happening n New York-editor


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