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

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  958 ratings  ·  162 reviews
On October 12, 2005, a massive fire broke out in the Wines Central wine warehouse in Vallejo, California. Within hours, the flames had destroyed 4.5 million bottles of California's finest wine worth more than $250 million, making it the largest destruction of wine in history. The fire had been deliberately set by a passionate oenophile named Mark Anderson, a skilled con ma ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 6th 2015 by St. Martin's Press (first published July 7th 2015)
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 ·  958 ratings  ·  162 reviews

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Start your review of Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California
Steve Alcorn
Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a wine enthusiast and collector I found this very interesting, but also a bit odd. It's really three different books shuffled together. The part I was most interested in was the story of the arson fire that destroyed many of California's winery's libraries and in some cases whole vintages. It was told in narrative non-fiction form, and was very gripping.

The book also contains a couple of chapters on other wine frauds, and these chapters were also interesting, since I've been on the losing sid
Nov 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My cousin wrote this book and I'm mentioned a few times in it! Very interesting weaving of CA wine history and the arson story. ...more
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: can-t-wait
This will be my go to book for gifts for my wine loving friends.....and will also bring the book along with a bottle of wine as a gift, when I am invited for dinner engagements.

Wine, history, intrigue and fine writing...the perfect combo...for the chillier Fall nights. The fact that the author made a personal connection with the arsonist and has a family connection with the vintner makes the book even more appealing to curl up with.

Our book group is already excitably planning on a wine tasting n
Tom Blumer
Dec 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was very aware of the October 2005 wine storage facility fire that destroyed millions of dollars of fine wine because my brother-in-law was directly impacted negatively by the fire. He lost an entire vintage. But what made the book even more interesting was the history of the California wine industry as told by the author. From its early history to the wine fraud scandals, all make for interesting reading. Not always the greatest prose, but certainly a good story.
Joan Gelfand
Nov 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Dinkelspiel is a researcher of high scruples, tireless investigation and a finder of fun facts and more. This book delivered SO much more than I expected. I thought I would learn about the fire - which fascinated me - and instead I learned the ENTIRE history of the California wine industry. Brilliant.
May 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: true-crime
I found this book to be disjointed and a little repetitive. The core story revolves around Mark Anderson, an arsonist who destroyed millions of bottles of wine in the mid-2000s. But it also takes a meandering trail through 19th century California and the development of the wine industry in that state, then takes a sudden, unexplained turn into the world of wine fraud. Finally, at the end, it returns to Anderson's story, which is the most intriguing piece of the book. While I appreciate that the ...more
Mar 27, 2016 rated it liked it
I find the subject matter really interesting but would have liked more information on Mark Anderson, the man convicted of arson of a wine storage facility. More information on his background, more interviews with the people who know him, more insight into the man.

A lot of the book goes into history of California Wine and how the author's ancestor fit into it. I found this interesting, but wanted more information on the arson and arsonist.
Julia Siler
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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. ...more
Scott James
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wow
Once again Dinkelspiel tells an amazing, surprising story about the American experience, this time through the world of California wine. That glass you're drinking has a provenance that includes murder? A page turner, especially for wine lovers and anyone who loves their history mixed with a griping true crime tale. The author has done her homework, and the result is superb. Bravo. ...more
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
My family was directly involved in this astonishing and tragic story. The history of California wine making presented by the author was just the right amount to keep the book moving along and the details of the Wine Central fire and the investigation and prosecution were interesting even though I already knew most of the story. A well-written book.
Nov 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Though the book had quite a few interesting details, the lack of a cohesive flow and order among all of the stories and historical time frames made the book hard to read. Lots of interesting facts about wine!
Catherine Read
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed Julia Flynn Siler's House of Mondavi which I read back in 2008. Both that book and Tangled Vines are non-fiction that read like a gripping novel.

The history of the wine industry in the United States is fascinating. Frances Dinkelspiel goes deeper into California's history than Siler did, and that indeed goes back to when California was a territory. The history that is intertwined with this "real crime drama" of arson starts back in 1839 with a 13,000 acre land grant to a Los
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this book! The book details the arson act that occurred in October 2005 at the largest wine storage facility in California and all the negative, lasting effects that had on so many people and families, including the author's ancestors who owned a vineyard in Rancho Cucamonga. Bottles of their 1875 Port and Angelica were lost in the fire. She also discusses the history of wine making, starting out in Rancho Cucamonga, as well as detailing o ...more
Barbara Switzer
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was well written and documented. The story has historical significance for the part of California where I live and also for the now famous northern wine growing regions of the state. The author is pursuing her ancestors' wine-making stories which brings another dimension to the book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading her account of the history of wine in California and one man's depravity and deception. ...more
Apr 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Filing this one under, it should have been a long magazine article in the New Yorker.
Tami DuBow``
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am
Not a huge history nor wine connoisseur, but I do like both. I loved how this book brought alive the history of the wine from the very earth it comes from through the humans laboring to create wine from it. This was a challenging book to write, many elements, and I thought it did well. It makes me want to try some seriously d and pricey wine some day.
Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book intertwines two stories, one the history of California winemaking and the other the crime in 2005 that destroyed more than $100 million worth of wine. The author, a journalist, became interested in the story through her family's historical connection to the industry. I had always imagined European winemakers planting their ancestral vines in the rolling hills of Napa, but learned that Los Angeles had been the original heart of the California wine industry, that Native Americans were fo ...more
Mal Warwick
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Gold. Aerospace. Agriculture. Filmmaking and television. Computers and consumer electronics. Wine. Viewed through the lens of business and commerce, these industries dominate the history of the State of California. Examining any one of them as it has evolved over the three centuries since Spanish monks seized control of the land helps illuminate how California has become the wealthy and populous state it is today. In Tangled Vines, journalist Frances Dinkelspiel tells the colorful story of Calif ...more
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
If you're interested in wine, history, or crime, "Tangled Vines" is worth a read. Several parts of the book offer gripping, well-crafted narratives that kept me reading past bedtime, a feat generally only fiction can muster. Unfortunately, I was continually disappointed by a lack of the tightness required for a perfectly engaging read. Sentences like this one - "In late 1906, CWA began construction of Winehaven, which would become the world’s largest wine depot in the world" - were not infrequen ...more
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book really brought to life the darker side of the wine industry. The main story is the coverage of the Mark Anderson Wines Central fire saga - a fascinating read, particularly as it was spread out over so many years and impacted so many wineries. This is a nice compilation of the whole event and its aftermath. However, the author approaches coverage of the story from a personal angle as her family had some historic wine destroyed in that fire, and therefore uses part of the book to cover h ...more
Lori Ide
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is really two books in one. The main story is about an arsonist who torched a huge supply of stored wines valued in the many millions in 2005. The author then goes into detail about the history of wine in CA. It is evident that it is well researched. However, the extremely minute details and side stories got in the way of what I felt her main objective was for writing this tome. I actually liked the many details; the book just seemed structured in an odd way to me. I rate most books that I ...more
Joan Mitchell
Oct 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-have-won
This was truly a tale of Tangled Vines. The history of wine making from the 1700s to present day in California. Sounnds boring but this was certainly not a boring book. I know nothing about wine but the story unfolded with murder greed etc and the same nefarious attitudes spanned the history of wine making. And this was just in California, just in part of California. It makes me wonder if the wine making across the world is so convoluted. A good book. I received this book from Goodreads for free ...more
Renee Wise
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Anyone interested in wine, even in the most tangential way, will love this book. It combines wine industry history, intrigue, passion and greed in a heady combination like none other. Using the 2005 tragic and very expensive wine arson fire that rocked the wine world as a hook, the story provides an even richer look into the chequered past of wine in California. Frances is an author who thrives on factual research in her writing but who also has the uncanny ability of turning that research into ...more
Gerald Wright
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
As reportage covering the fire set by Mark Anderson that burned down a wine warehouse in Vallejo in which a tragic amount of wine was lost, the book is not bad. The early California wine history was interesting - particularly that on Southern California as I didn't know so much about it. But as for writing about wine in general - wine collecting and tasting, wine collectors, makers, aficionados.... the writing seemed cliched at times. Dinkelspiel is generally accurate... but she did make a coupl ...more
Christina Tsafoulias
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great book club choice! A non-fiction book with a real narrative, written by a journalist with a true sense of story. This definitely appealed to the wine nerd in me and kindled my curiosity even further about the wine world and its crazy adherents.
Tracey W.
Apr 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wow! I totally see Napa valley in a whole different light after reading this book. It was great to learn more about the history of the California wine business amidst the drama.
Ronnie Cramer
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book is long on wine and short on crime. If you're interested in winery minutia, you'll love this book, but I often had trouble staying awake. ...more
Isaac Baker
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
If the title doesn’t make it clear, this is a great beach read. Author Frances Dinkelspiel digs deep into California wine history, her own past, and a series of wine-related misdoings to tell a tale that is fascinating, educational, and a whole lot of fun. Wine neophytes and oenophiles alike should find something interesting in “Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California.”

Dinkespiel uses the infamous 2005 arson fire at Wines Central warehouse in Valle
Sandy Nawrot
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
My husband and I are big fans of a fine wine, and have friends who own a wine store, thus have been lucky enough to go on a few amazing boondoggles to Napa as well as some trips on our own. So we were familiar with the players, which is why someone loaned this book to us. It is a perfect example of truth being crazier than fiction.

The author has familial roots in the fathers of the wine movement back in the 1800's, so she's got some investment in this story. She starts out by giving us some his
Dianne Landry
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I don't like wine and I really don't care about the history of it but I am really glad our book club picked this one.

Mark Anderson's vocation was storing wine for people. Lots of expensive wine. Of course, because many of his clients didn't come to is storage facility very often he was also able to steal their wine and sell it. Apparently the merchants who sell wine for people don't really follow up provenance because much of the product is so old there is no way to prove who it belongs to. Onc
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Frances Dinkelspiel is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, People Magazine and elsewhere. She is the co-founder of Berkeleyside, an award-winning news site. Her newest book is Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California. Her first book was the bestselling, award-winning Towers of Gold: How One Jewish I ...more

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