Frances Dinkelspiel

A decade ago, 4.5 million bottles of wine, valued at a quarter of a million dollars, went up in flames at a Vallejo warehouse. The fire was the desperate act of a respected wine collector trying to erase all traces of his years defrauding the wine lovers who trusted him. Among the destroyed collection were 175 bottles of a rare 19th century wine made by the ancestors of journalist Frances Dinkelspiel. In her new book “Tangled Vines,” Dinkelspiel exposes the dark history of California’s wine industry from arson to enslavement and even murder.

Frances Dinkelspiel, co-founder,; author of "Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California"

  • It’s kind of a scam across the board…

  • Robert Thomas

    I grew up a few hundred yards from the Mirassou House that was in the middle of the former Cambrian Park Golf course (now Xilinx and Hwy 85) in San Jose. The commonly told story was, when I was a kid, that the elderly lady who was the last inhabitant there of the family known for its not very extraordinary wine allowed the golf course to persist long after subdivision would otherwise have taken place. I wonder about the history of the Mirassou family, and whether there’s writing about it.

  • elene

    if someone wanted to learn more about the history of California wines, what books would you suggest.

    • Another Mike

      Although not comprehensive, I liked “Napa, the Story of an American Eden,” by Conaway, and “The House of Mondavi.”

    • Thomas Pinney wrote a 2-volume set called “A History of American Wine,” that is excellent and covers the history of wine in California. It’s published by UC Press and you can find it online. My book Tangled Vines has a lot of history as does Julia Flynn Siler’s House of Mondavi. Charles Sullivan has written a number of good histories of specific regions.

  • Rod On Isle

    Loved her books. Please comment on the wine and booze labels being exempt from ingredients requirements. And what kinds of things are they putting in the bottle?

    • Another Mike

      Alcoholic beverage labels are regulated by the TTB, formerly the BATF. Alcoholic beverages are not considered to be food.

      • Robert Thomas

        This seems right to me.

        Good root beer: food.

        Overpriced, over-chilled English bitter sold in fru-fru casual eating chain restaurants: not food.

  • Remco Litjens

    Listening in from The Netherlands, I loved the conversation, can’t wait
    to get and read the book. Surely, I should be able to find it here …

  • Another Mike

    Some California wine historical trivia.
    California wines were widely advertised on network radio during the 1940s. This was because distillery output was being largely diverted to war production. The liquor company Schenley bought Roma Wines (of Lodi and Fresno), and the Cresta Blanca winery (of Livermore) so they would have alcoholic beverages to sell.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor