A Bad Wine Saga Ends!

Fire  On October 15, 2005 more than 6 million bottles of wine stored at the Wine Central Warehouse in Vallejo were destroyed when Marc Anderson, a Sausalito, California business man set fire to the warehouse in order to destroy evidence of earlier crimes.

Entire inventories of wineries productions were destroyed as almost 100 wineries kept their inventories in the warehouse. In some cases, historic library collections of important California wineries were destroyed by heat damage. For the Northern California wine industry, Anderson's self-serving, desperate act was a devastating loss.

Today, under a plea agreement involving a 19 count federal indictment, Anderson pled guilty to the crime.

Now, I don't mean to suggest that this crime of arson, because it was wine that was destroyed and because I love wine, is a particularly terrible crime. I don't mean to diminish the impact of other types of crimes where lives are taken, for example. I only mean to suggest that the 20 some odd years in prison that Anderson will likely get as a result of being convicted not only of arson but also of mail fraud and tax evasion, are simply not enough.

The problem is, I have no idea what kind of prison term would be appropriate. Luckily, I'm not a judge. If it were me, I'd probably flip a coin: Heads it's life, tails it's it only until he dies.

What was shocking about this case at the time was not just the extent of the loss as the mass loss of wine became known, but the fact that this kind of cross industry loss is not often seen in the wine industry. Sometimes we hear about trucks carrying grapes tipping over on the highway. Sometimes we hear about tankers with wine crashing spilling 1000s of gallons of wine onto the highway. And occasionally you hear about a fire at a winery. You just don't' hear about 6 million bottles of wlne being destroyed.

In any case, we'll not hear much more about this story. Anderson pled guilty, he'll go to jail and the wineries that lost so much have plodded forward and done what they had to.

I just hope that those who did lose so much of what they had worked so hard to produce and preserve gain a little bit of solace from the fact that for the next 20 years Anderson will spend time sharing a shower and soap with some of the nicest guys in California. But I doubt it.



There's no question about it, I'm on the downslope of working through the cravings and oral fixation that has been so difficult to deal with over the past 3 weeks. Today the occasional craving to light up and inhale smoke into my lungs still over comes me. In fact, it happens at least 10 times a day. But the cravings are far less severe now and last only momentarily. In addition, when distracted, when not writing about quitting smoking but thinking about other things, I don't think about smoking at all. As I've written before, the aroma seeking nose is back. However, I'm still waiting on the flavor detecting ability of my palate to become more acute. Bottom line: with the help of drugs, patches, candy and the support of friends, readers and another very important person, I'm pretty sure I"m a non-smoker.

8 Responses

  1. Jeff - November 16, 2009

    Congrats Tom! Keep it going!
    Mark Anderson is the Bernie Madoff of the wine industry. The same sentence (150 years) would seem appropriate.

  2. The Wine Mule - November 17, 2009

    Jeez, it took FOUR YEARS to get this case through the courts?
    Tom: You are an example to us all. Good going, man.

  3. Mark - November 17, 2009

    Tom-congrats on keeping up with the quitting, I’m sure you’ll look back years from now and be glad you did(at least all the people I know whom have quit do)
    It’s hard to imagine the impact an act like Mr. Anderson’s could have had on certain wineries. What became of those wineries after having an entire years worth of inventory destroyed? Were younger, less well known wineries able to recover? This is one of those cases, if it were to happen outside of NYC that would have way more national media attention then it does in Northern California.

  4. Phil - November 17, 2009

    Tom congrats on the non smoking I wish I could say the cravings go away but after nine years I still get the occasional need. For that I have embraced coffee. Hey one fixation for another!
    As for the fire case it is still amazing how many wineries are recovering from this. I was just having a meeting with a winery owner two weeks ago that lost one of the second vintage. They practically gave up on the California market after that. They could never regain the traction. I think a lot of people look at this a too bad a bunch of rich winery owners lost some wine when in reality this fire hurt people all across the wine and food service industry not to mention the loss of history. A true shame.

  5. jeff - November 17, 2009

    And, this case is notable for another reason — it’s the first wine specific story that I recall that took on broader awareness because of the blogosphere. otherwise, it would have been a Napa Valley Register or Press-Democrat story and a mention on winebusiness.com.

  6. Tom Lipton - November 18, 2009

    Having quit 33 years ago this coming Feb. 1st after repeated attempts that last from 60 days to upwards of three years, all I can say is hang in there! Today I can not imagine how corrupted my taste buds were, how I rushed through fabulous meals just to get that nicotine hit; no glamor in toilet-bowl breath and the coughing and wheezing… can not imagine how I had the nerve to inflict the stink of family and friends all those years. Whatever, it sounds like you are can handle the cravings and overcome the habits, just be sure to get as much physical exercise as possible the instant you reach for that missing pack. Run, walk, skate, do jumping jacks, pushups or anything vigorous for at least 10 or 15 minutes and the urge will subside. Best of all wine and food will taste fantastic again, and will continue to improve as the poison seeps away. Good luck and keep it up!

  7. Anneliese - November 28, 2009

    I had not heard about this Marc Anderson fire story. Thank you for telling it here. I wonder if there would be any sentencing difference if not wine, but old paintings had been burned? Hopefully the same, as both are one-of-a-kind irreplaceable art.
    As for smoking: This month (November) marks 14 years for me! Sometimes I have a craving, but I smell the smoke of another’s cig and the craving disappears. I’ve taken a hit 3x in the past 14 years and the sudden reminder of what it was like keeps me smoke free. Keep up the good work.

  8. Shala Ohms - November 15, 2011

    How many days did it take before you completely quit smoking? That includes thinking about it and craving for it. Good thing you got help! I’m sure you had a hard time dealing with the withdrawal effects, but you stood your ground and maintained a solid mindset. Your family and friends are probably glad of the results. How are you, btw?

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