Kirkus Reviews QR Code
TANGLED VINES by Frances Dinkelspiel


Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California

by Frances Dinkelspiel

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-250-03322-2
Publisher: St. Martin's

The events and characters behind a 2005 Napa fire that caused the greatest destruction of wine in history: 4.5 million bottles worth more than $250 million.

Berkeleyside co-founder Dinkelspiel (Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, 2008) chronicles the story of oenophile Mark Anderson and his downward spiral into becoming a thief, a grifter, and, ultimately, the arsonist responsible for destroying some of the oldest wine libraries in California. Anderson was a longtime resident of the northern California wine country whose personal history was shrouded in a web of lies. However, the elaborate charade of maintaining a created persona unraveled when his crimes become known to the California wine community. In response, Anderson was forced to take drastic measures in an attempt to burn evidence of his crimes. While part of this readable story is a character study of Anderson, the narrative is interwoven with Dinkelspiel’s family history in old California. Some of the wine burned by Anderson was a 19th-century port made by Dinkelspiel’s great-great grandfather Isaias Hellman (who was the subject of the author's first book). In the telling of the early history of winemaking in California, she explores Hellman’s place in a tangled tale of violence caused by infighting over ownership of large wineries and sprawling ranchos. 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. "It's the pursuit of the experience," writes the author, "the belief that wine opens up worlds and forges friendships that drives people to be so obsessed. Humans have worshipped wines for eons, from Noah to the Greeks.

An enjoyable read for wine connoisseurs and neophytes alike.