A $200,000 Michelin-Star Wine Cellar Heist Was Unusually Specific

In the movies, well-planned heists usually involve cash or diamonds. In real life, the things thieves covet are often more varied. Wine, for instance, has been the target of several high-profile heists in recent years. One of the most audacious thefts occurred on Chrismas in 2014, according to Atlas Obscura, when thieves snuck into The French Laundry — the famed Thomas Keller helmed restaurant in Yountville, California — and stole wines valued at more than $500,000.

Even more audacious, perhaps, was the case of an inside job at Legend Cellars in Southern California. Employee George Osumi not only embezzled money from the company, Decanter observes, but also stole wine valued at $2.7 million dollars. To add insult to injury, per Vivino, he replaced the valuable Bordeaux wines he took with cheap wines from Trader Joe's.

The highest profile thefts recently, however, have occurred in Spain. In October 2021, notes Yahoo, over $1.6 million worth of wine was stolen from Atrio, a restaurant and hotel in Cáceres, Spain, which has been awarded two Michelin stars. Last weekend, another heist occurred in Spain — this one at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Madrid.

The Spanish restaurant was targeted for its top wines

The latest wine heist occurred at Coque de Madrid, where thieves stole an estimated $190,000 worth of fine wines, according to Food & Wine. Although the stellar cellar at Coque de Madrid contains about 25,000 bottles, 132 were stolen, with older and more valuable vintages wines being the prime target.

The specifically sought out wines, however, were but one indicator of the well-planned nature of the crime, Food & WIne observed. The thieves gained entry to the wine cellar via a shuttered neighboring pharmacy and were clever enough to break in prior to a day the restaurant was closed, delaying the discovery of the theft.

Coque de Madrid is one of the finest restaurants in the country and earned the second of its two Michelin stars in 2015, per Beau Monde Traveler. It is owned and operated by a trio of Sandoval brothers, Decanter notes: Mario Sandoval is the chef; Diego Sandoval is the front-of-house manager; and Rafael Sandoval oversees the wine cellar. The latter was distressed by the loss of vintage wines which had been in the family for generations, per Food & Wine, although he expressed a reluctant admiration for the thieves' skill. "These people could have robbed the Bank of Spain," he told the outlet.