reads from Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California.
“The author is deeply rooted in the Golden State’s financial history, as anyone knows who read her excellent Towers of Gold. Now we find that terroir’s part of that story, too. A family member’s bottled heirlooms passed down through generations fall victim to a bizarre crime, and the author’s drawn in by a sense of loss, anger, and curiosity. How could even an unhinged perpetrator of the worst case of wine arson in California history destroy vintages bearing some of the biggest names in West Coast viticulture, and apparently get away with it? Dinkelspiel weaves together strands of past and present in an enthralling narrative that binds the reader to the investigation and to her personal triumph.”--James Conaway, author of the NYT bestseller, Napa: The Story of an American Eden
On October 12, 2005, a fire broke out in Vallejo, California’s Wines Central, a warehouse that stored thousands of cases of wine from vineyards and individual collectors. Within hours, flames and heat had ravaged the concrete building, destroying more than four and a half million bottles of wine worth $250 million. It was the costliest destruction of wine in history, annihilating entire California vineyard libraries as well as bottles of some of the most sought-after wines in the world. That fire was deliberately set by a passionate oenophile named Mark Anderson, a skilled con man with storage space at the warehouse who needed to cover his tracks when clients discovered he had been selling the valuable bottles entrusted to him. The history of the wine trade in California is rife with destruction like that caused by Anderson starting with the nineteenth century murder of Rancho Cucomonga's John Rains. Dragged behind a wagon, shot several times, stripped of his clothing and left off the main road for the coyotes to feed on, Rains’ murder allowed a group of men to steal the vineyard away from his trusting widow and leave her penniless. Frances Dinkelspiel looks beneath the casually-elegant veneer of California’s wine regions to find the violence, greed, obsession and murder just under the surface. Few people sipping a fine California Cabernet can even guess at the Tangled Vines where its life began.
Awaard-winning journalist Frances Dinkelspiel is the author of Towers of Gold, and a founder of Berkeleyside. She lives in Berkeley.