Suit: Wine expert created blog to trash Yelp critic
BY LISA DONOVAN AND ALLISON HORTON Staff Reporters January 12, 2012 12:20PM
Updated: February 14, 2012 10:16AM
A Chicago woman who took her complaints about a local sommelier and his food and wine pairing class to the Internet said she got more than a taste of revenge from the businessman.
Cecelia Groark’s post on Yelp, the popular online review site, about Bottled Grapes in Albany Park allegedly yielded an angry response from owner Krunch Kretschmar, an internationally known sommelier. She claims he started a blog about her that accused her of “embezzling” from her employer, of having a drug addiction and of “turning to the oldest profession to gain funds need[ed] to support her habits.”
The online battle is detailed in a lawsuit Groark filed this week in Cook County Circuit Court that accuses Kretschmar of posting “malicious and false statements” and seeks more than $650,000 in damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The virtual battle started after Groark signed up for a deal offered through Chicago-based Groupon for a food and wine pairing class offered by Bottled Grapes at 3332 W. Foster. She said she was not told where the class would be held, the suit says.
The day of the class, Groark e-mailed Kretschmar to ask for the location. Kretschmar called and told her that she did not reply to an earlier e-mail so he gave her seat away, the suit said.
On Nov. 16, Groark posted a review of Bottled Grapes online at Yelp explaining how her seat was given away and expressing frustration with the customer service, the suit said.
The next day, Kretschmar established a blog in Groark’s name, the suit claims, that stated: “Cecelia[’s] troubles began when she started Embezzling from her last employer to support her drug addiction. While her treatment in the Cook County jail did little to help her, she is continuing to fight her demons everyday. Now turning to the oldest profession to gain the funds need[ed] to support her habits, she is now trying to turn a new leaf. We wish her well.”
He then allegedly e-mailed the link to her stating, “Now every time a company for a job or someone searches YOU on Google they will read my side of the story.”
In an interview, Kretschmar — whose website says he has a doctorate in economics from Harvard Business School and is one of only 24 International Grand Confrerie Sommeliers in the world — admits creating the blog.
“I basically set up a blog, but if you click on it there’s nothing there now,” the Lithuanian-born Kretschmar told the Sun-Times on Thursday.
While an online profile early Thursday afternoon showed he had a blog titled “Cecelia Groark,” it was gone by 3 p.m. — something he acknowledged he removed after the interview with the Sun-Times. There were no postings on the blog Thursday.
Asked whether he ever posted the inflammatory comments about Groark, he said: “No, to my knowledge that was never up there. The only time I saw it [the blog post] was when the lawyer sent me a note, telling me to remove it,” he said.