Monday, February 15, 2010

Lilac Theives and other Weirdness in Wine Country

GAYE LEBARON has her own set of recollections when she hears about the stimulus money that was supposedly set for use on the Napa Wine Train, and about how 20 years ago a group of Sonoma vintners hijacked the train (and later a bus full of tourists) and forced them to drink Sonoma County wines instead. But that's not the story I heard last week which reminded me of past weirdness here in wine country.

A man stealing ornamental plant clippings in Sebastopol attacked the owner of said plants - with a pair of pruning shears - and according to the PressDemocrat, Leo Brink, aged 51, now sits in jail on charges of attempted murder.

Leo - Dude, what were you thinking? How much were you possibly going to get for a few plants, and was that small sum of cash worth what you think the next 5~9 years a second-degree attempted murder charge will land you? Exactly what was the plant you were trying to take - marijuana? salvia divinorum? 
Dude I'll make this easy for you, there ARE NO PLANTS WORTH KILLING FOR...not the most famous clippings from Bordeaux, nor anything else. Period.

What it reminds me of: 20-some years ago, there was a string of lilac thefts through the Sonoma Valley which had everyone scratching their heads. (And I can attest that things like this stick in your mind when you make a living off of farm crops!) If my memory is correct, a group of workers from a Petaluma florist (or landscaper?) had set off to take the new blooms forcibly from the places they were growing. Now lilacs are very fragrant, but the blooms don't last very long after they've been cut, and they don't travel well. So there is definitely money to be made by the person(s) who can supply the myriad of hotels, B&B's, etc, in Sonoma County with a constant supply of fresh local flowers.

The plant hacking spree lasted a few weeks, with the thieves brazenly hewing huge portions of the plants off and speeding away with them, sometimes from under the bedroom windows of the sleeping owners. It all came to a stop when one woman (was it in El Verano? Glen Ellen?), seeing several men disemboweling her cherished plant, challenged them, and when they tried to speed off - gave chase in her car!
She had descriptions of the men, and a license plate number from the truck they used....which just happened to belong to the company they worked for.

The truck was traced, the men were caught and questioned, but I don't recall if there was much of a fine for the offenses. (The company owners later denied knowledge of the thefts, and of the use of the vehicle, which they said was supposed to be out-of-service being repaired.) Where this all leads to is this: there were a number of people with what seemed to be a minor black market in lilacs, and they were making money...but even though they had out-numbered the witness to their crime apparently had never contemplated using violence against another person for what was simply the theft of some flowers....
(Hey, Leo, take a note, eh?!)

More recently have been the thefts of fermenting must from a winery located between Sonoma and Petaluma (I think), which had been stolen using a bucket-brigade method to a waiting vehicle, and the attempted break in a few years back of a Russian River area winery where thieves had tried to come in through the roof using climbing ropes.
Again, nobody was hurt in either of those events.



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March 04, 2010 9:14 AM  
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