- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 2nd Print edition (October 6, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781250033222
- ISBN-13: 978-1250033222
- ASIN: 1250033225
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 143 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California Hardcover – October 6, 2015
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Finalist for Best Nonfiction Book – Northern California Independent Booksellers
Finalist for a Northern California Book Award
"Clear and absorbing, a reminder that no matter how much beauty and poetry we may find in the glass, for many it's ultimately all about the money." - Eric Asimov, The New York Times
"From its explosive prologue to the very last sentence, Frances Dinkelspiel has written an utterly riveting true crime book... Unlike... the wine collectors in Tangled Vines, I cannot taste 'the earth, the sun, the sky, and the steady hand of the winemaker in that glass.' But I know a spectacular book when I read one." - The Los Angeles Book Review
"The most engrossing and engaging book about Napa Valley since James Conaway’s two-volume saga, “Napa” and “The Far Side of Eden.” - The Washington Post
"Dinkelspiel is at her best... page-turning." - San Francisco Chronicle
"An engaging read" - San Jose Mercury News
"Dinkelspiel’s stunning new look at the dark side of California wine, you won’t want to get up until you’ve devoured the entire book... [An] uncommon page-turner. Dinkelspiel has woven skillfully three distinct yet inextricable narratives into a book that will inform and fascinate readers for years to come. While the stories she tells are engrossing on their own, it is her steady journalistic tone, backed by prodigious and painstaking research, that gives this book its power and allure." - Berkeleyside's "Nosh Weekly"
“More than just a crime story, this is a book about the wealth, passion, and murky reality shaped by life inside the twisted vines of California's most revered crop... An enjoyable read for wine connoisseurs and neophytes alike.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“The author's gripping descriptions of the fire and its aftermath, her unflinching narrative, and her vast knowledge of the subject matter make this a page-turner for both wine aficionados and casual tasters.” ―Publishers Weekly
“I gulped down this page-turning chronicle of big egos, bold Cabernets, and brazen wine wars. Frances Dinkelspiel vividly captures the wild early years of California's wine industry as well as the modern crime revealing the dark obsession some people have for wine. I'll never look at a bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet in quite the same way again.” ―Julia Flynn Siler, New York Times bestselling author of House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty
“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, New York Times bestselling author of Napa: The Story of an American Eden
“History, wine and crime intertwine in this fascinating page-turner. Dinkelspiel travels in time to create a dark and deep portrait of three centuries of California wine culture.” ―Davia Nelson of NPR’s "Kitchen Sisters"
“Tangled Vines is a captivating account of how a wine connoisseur became one of the most notorious wine criminals in history. Dinkelspiel deftly weaves his true tale into the rich, colorful, and at times shady history of California wine. A delicious read.” ―Allison Hoover Bartlett, author of The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession
About the Author
FRANCES DINKELSPIEL is an award-winning journalist and the author of Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California. Towers of Gold was a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and named a Best Book of the Year by the Chronicle and the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association. She is the co-founder of the news site Berkeleyside and her articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, People, San Francisco Magazine, and other venues. She lives in Berkeley, California.
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What was more interesting than the arson was the number of scammers in the business. Mark Anderson, the arsonist, lived in Orinda where I also lived but had never heard of him. At the time of the fire he lived in Sausalito and was a 'respected' member of the community. Mark sold much of his wine to Premier Cru in Oakland, who took a big loss. Premier is in the news now, having sold futures mainly to Chinese and Japanese buyers and not making delivery. As with Mark, their reasons for failure are vague and not believable.
Francis' relatives owned vineyards in Los Angeles...and she spends much of the book on the history of the area...also very fascinating. Once, the Cucamonga area had more acreage in grapes than both Sonoma and Napa and was the biggest wine region in the U.S.!
The book is available in hardcover and as an e-book. Check it out! Fascinating and well-written
Tangled Vines recounts the 18th-century origins of the state’s wine industry in the rising demand for sacramental wine for use in the Catholic missions that were the first centers of European settlement in California. For two centuries, Californios (Spanish-speaking settlers) dominated the field until the Gold Rush brought tens of thousands of English-speakers to the state, newcomers who gained the ascendancy through hard work, shrewd investment, as well as fraud and even murder.
As Dinkelspiel tells the story, California’s wine industry didn’t come into its own until late in the 19th century when it finally gained acceptance on the East Coast of the U.S. as an alternative to fine European wines. The industry flourished, its center of gravity moving from Southern California to San Francisco, until the advent of Prohibition in 1920 — and then collapsed. Revival, and the rise of Napa and Sonoma counties, came late in the 1960s through the pioneering efforts of Robert Mondavi. We all know the rest.
The focal point of Dinkelspiel’s tale is the tragic 2005 fire that destroyed as much as $250 million worth of wine stored at the cavernous Wines Central warehouse in Vallejo. Set by a 300-pound, self-styled wine expert named Mark Anderson in an attempt to cover up his theft over many years of millions of dollars worth of wine entrusted to his care, the fire occasioned years of shameful antics by Anderson to delay action against him in both civil and criminal courts. Only seven years after the fire was the arsonist and thief sent to prison for a 27-year term that would end after he turned 87.
From the recently canonized Father Junipero Serra to Mark Anderson himself, the tale related in Tangled Vines is crammed with fascinating characters. It’s a great read.
Frances Dinkelspiel, a former reporter for the San Jose Mercury-News and co-founder of the popular website Berkeleyside, is also the author of Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California. Hellman, the author’s great-great grandfather, also figures prominently in Tangled Vines, which is her second book.
In "Tangled Vines" (TV) we have that protagonist. Thing is, he isn't really a person here. He is a bottle of very Old Port. I'll just call him OP, or rather, Opie from now on. (Remember the Ron Howard character in "The Andy Griffith Show"? I borrowed the name from that television series since he was so wholesome. And the name worked.)
And Opie sure made a very long journey, starting first as grapes near modern-day San Diego, an area that you will learn was the major grape-growing region in California until other regions such as Napa Valley and Sonoma took over. But back in the 1800s, Opie didn't really exist yet as he was still in a barrel, a dark place where he would stay until sometime around Prohibition. It was only then that Opie was "born," as he was finally bottled so he could continue his adventure.
I won't give away the whole plot as that might ruin the story for you. But I will say that eventually, Opie ended up in the hands of the author Frances Dinkelspiel. She is not only a really good writer, but she's also a very good wine steward as well, at least for one very old bottle of port. And it's amazing that Opie lived as long as he did, considering he easily could've died in a fiery blaze with all of his siblings.
The biggest reason that I read this book was that I lived in Vallejo for a few years -- I surely wouldn't recommend it, sorry -- before moving north into the hills just above Napa Valley almost four years ago -- I can recommend this latter location. It's just that there is way too much crime in Vallejo, and for some proof, that is the city, at least on Mare Island, where the warehouse fire occurred where Opie could've easily been condemned to Wine Hell. But there are many wineries that lost a lot of wine in that fire; some of those wineries lost wine valued in the millions of dollars. I heard awhile back, before reading the book, that many wineries were even near the edge of bankruptcy because of it. And one of the featured wineries that lost millions? I can drive five minutes from my house down the hill and I'm there. I even visited the winery a long time ago, before the fire occurred I believe, and I can say the view is spectacular.
This book reads at times like a thriller. At other times like a true-crime book. But it's really a history book, without the "boring stuff," that will teach you about the wine business in California. Well, it's a biography of Opie too I suppose. But it t is fun at times, and it is tragic at others. And if you love wine you just might cry. I almost did. I'm sure that many of the winemakers who lost more bottles than you could count cried a lot right afterwards, and their tears might not be dry, even to this day.
If you're into wine, or like history, or enjoy true crime, I would give a huge recommendation on "Twisted Vines." Whatever genre you like the best, I think we all can agree that a good story needs a good protagonist. And Opie is a very sweet one here.
The story first overlays the investigation of an arson fire that devastates families and businesses.
It further overlays the history of wine making in CA. Who knew about LA wines of the 19th centrry?
The first person style of the reporter's narrative is given heart by the fact that her great, great grandfather's wine, a family heirloom and legendary product was lost in the fire. It also answers questions I've wondered about. I knew the building and saw the fire, but never heard the rest of the story.
Now I have--and finished it in two settings.
Yep, a real thoughtful page turner.