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The Book of the Week is “Tangled Vines, Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California” by Frances Dinklespiel, published in 2015. The moral of this book’s main story is “Lawsuits followed and winemakers like Viader made mental notes never to be cavalier about the disposition of fire-damaged wine.”
According to the author, as of 2013, Americans drank the largest quantity of wine, 13% of all the wine of all the countries in the world.
In October 2005, a majorly evil crime was committed at the Wines Central warehouse on Mare Island in Vallejo. An assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern district of California– an expert in wine fraud and arson, and an agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assessed the damage and investigated the site. The latter used an acceleration-detection canine, also called an arson dog.
The perpetrator committed: mail fraud (for shipping wine across state lines under a false name), interstate transfer of stolen property (because it wasn’t his wine to sell), arson, and tax evasion.
Fire destroyed millions upon millions of dollars’ worth of wine (stored in the warehouse) of mostly mom-and-pop wineries. As is usual in such instances, insurance claims of winemakers whose wine was covered, were denied, because the insurers contended that the wine was “in transit.”
In the single-digit 2000’s, Bill Koch of Koch family fame, didn’t spare a dime in finding out how he had become the victim of wine fraud. He employed investigators in various fields: ex-FBI agents, ex-Sotheby’s workers, a glass historian, and experts in cork and adhesives and labels. He sued the auction house and original seller of the wine.
Read the book to learn about the kinds of people who are passionate about making and selling wine, how they became victims of one especially bad actor, and a few other incidents in the life of the California wine industry.