A Napa Valley warehouse worker was arrested Tuesday and charged with stealing 350 cases of wine worth more than $400,000.
That's an average of more than $95 a bottle, so clearly Jose Pina, 31, knew what to take. Pina, who lives in Vacaville, just east of Napa Valley, was charged with three felony counts and is out on $25,000 bail, American Canyon Police Chief Tracey Stuart told Wine Searcher.
Police were tipped off when a broker who was approached with an offer to buy the wine realized something was fishy and alerted the winery, Stuart said.
"The wine warehouse did an inventory on February 15, and the wine was there at that time," Stuart said, meaning all 350 cases were stolen between then and March 15, when police found 55 cases of the missing wine in a barn. Three days later, they raided Pina's apartment and found more wine along with $73,150 in cash, which they believe came from selling the wine.
Stuart said the case is not over. Police found some of the missing wine on store shelves, and now the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is involved because it's illegal for a store to buy wine from someone who is not a licensed broker.
"It's stolen property," Stuart said. "Most of them have pulled the wine off their shelves and are sitting on it. The wineries want it back to deal with their wine appropriately and to protect their reputations."
Napa Valley Vintners spokesperson Cate Conniff says her organization is not yet sure which wines were taken.
Pina's employer, Valley Wine Warehouse, operates two wine warehouses in American Canyon at the southern end of Napa Valley. It stores wines for wineries but does not store collectors' wines for the general public.
In October 2005, a man named Mark Anderson set fire to a wine warehouse on Mare Island, just south of Napa Valley, to disguise the fact that he had embezzled wine from collectors who had given him wine for storage. The fire destroyed 4.5 million bottles of premium wine for both wineries and private collectors. Anderson pled guilty to 19 federal charges in 2009, and in 2012 was sentenced to 27 years in prison.