On October 12, 2005, a fire broke out in a massive old Navy bunker in Vallejo, California that had been converted into a wine warehouse known as Wines Central. Within hours, flames and heat had ravaged the concrete building, destroying more than four and a half million bottles of wine worth $250 million dollars. It was the costliest destruction of wine in history. That fire was deliberately set by a man named Mark Anderson who was at the end of his economic rope and, after being convicted of arson, is now doing prison time. Frances Dinkelspiel's Tangled Vines rips the sunny label off the laid-back California wine trade to show the violence present in every glass of Cabernet. Set against the backdrop of the bucolic Napa Valley and points south, Dinkelspiel explores the history of California's world of wine and how passion for the liquid some have called "the elixir of the gods" has driven people to extremes throughout its history. From the nineteenth century murder of Rancho Cucomonga's John Rains to the California Wine Association monopoly of Percy Morgan that drove down prices in a nationwide "wine war" to the fire in the Wines Central warehouse, Dinkelspiel tells a story of greed and obsession that few people can even guess at.
Frances Dinkelspeil 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. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, People, San Francisco Magazine, San Jose Mercury News, and other venues. She lives in Berkeley, California.