The value of fine wine depends on several factors, jurors learned Monday.
Jimmy Frantze, an owner of JJ’s Restaurant, described how he estimated the value of many assets — including thousands of bottles of fine wine — lost in the February 2013 explosion and fire that killed one person, injured 15 others and destroyed the popular longtime restaurant west of the Country Club Plaza.
Frantze and his brother David are seeking more than $9.3 million in damages in a civil suit to help offset the loss of the building, the net income lost and the cost of starting a new restaurant, which opened last November at 900 W. 48th St., just south of the old location.
Much of the trial testimony, which began last month at the Jackson County Courthouse, concerns the actions of Time Warner Cable; Heartland Midwest LLC, an Olathe excavating contractor that Time Warner hired to drill subsurface paths for fiberoptic cable it intended to run through the area; and Missouri Gas Energy, whose employees responded to the gas leak reports.
Frantze told lawyer Steven Emerson, who represents the restaurant owners, that many of JJ’s wines, collected since its 1985 opening, are no longer available.
Given that many of the restaurant’s records were stored on computer discs destroyed in the fire, Frantze said, he estimated the value of the lost vintages by finding comparable bottles online, as well as consulting some receipts still among his records at this residence.
Later Frantze conceded to attorney Ken Snow, representing Time Warner Cable, that some of his valuations may appear arbitrary.
He agreed that initially he had valued a 1929 bottle at $15,000, but had re-estimated its worth at $5,000 after seeing the same value given it by another appraiser.
“I just acquiesced,” he said, adding, “There’s a lot of emotion on my part with some of the older vintages.” That 1929 bottle, he added, “was in pristine condition. I probably had it for 30 years.”
Snow pointed out how another appraiser had estimated the worth of a bottle of 2000 wine at $1,100 while Frantze had valued it at $2,600. Still another bottle, Snow said, had been valued by Frantze to be worth $1,900 when the other appraiser had estimated its worth at $575.
Still, Frantze defended his overall estimates.
The cost of fine wine increases, he said, when one considers the percentages charged by Missouri wholesalers to “clear” or process such purchases, as well as considerable insurance and shipping costs.
Franzte also challenged Snow’s assertion that his restaurant had been struggling before the explosion.
“We were open,” he said. “We were making payroll and paying our taxes.”
Frantze appeared Monday in the witness stand with an oxygen tank. He explained to jurors that he had been diagnosed with liver cancer two years ago and that about two weeks ago he underwent a liver transplant.
“This is pretty miraculous,” he said.
To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to email@example.com.