• Tangled Vines

  • Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California
  • By: Frances Dinkelspiel
  • Narrated by: Dina Pearlman
  • Length: 9 hrs and 33 mins
  • 3.9 out of 5 stars (160 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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 man and thief with storage space at the warehouse who needed to cover his tracks.

With a propane torch and a bucket of gasoline-soaked rags, Anderson annihilated entire California vineyard libraries as well as bottles of some of the most sought-after wines in the world. Among the priceless bottles destroyed were 175 bottles of port and Angelica from one of the oldest vineyards in California, made by Frances Dinkelspiel's great-great grandfather, Isaias Hellman, in 1875.

Sadly, Mark Anderson was not the first to harm the industry. The history of the California wine trade, dating back to the 19th century, is a story of vineyards with dark and bloody pasts, tales of rich men, strangling monopolies, the brutal enslavement of vineyard workers, and murder. Five of the wine trade murders were associated with Isaias Hellman's vineyard in Rancho Cucamonga, beginning with the killing of John Rains, who owned the land at the time. He was shot several times, dragged from a wagon, and left off the main road for coyotes to feed on.

In her new book, Frances Dinkelspiel looks beneath the casually elegant veneer of California's wine regions to find the obsession, greed, and violence lying in wait. Few people sipping a fine California Cabernet can even guess at the Tangled Vines where its life began.

©2015 Frances Dinkelspiel (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

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What listeners say about Tangled Vines

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

I was put off by the readers absolute lack of know

was put off by the readers total lack of knowledge about the pronunciation of California towns and cities Wineries and French terms intergral to the wine business why on Earth would they pick this reader for this book. I enjoyed the story and I love the way the author weaved her personal story Into the book
but it was so annoying I just waited for the next problem-- like how do you pronounce sommelier how do you pronounce Charles Krug .

14 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Very interesting story but the narration......

Would you listen to Tangled Vines again? Why?

Really enjoyed this story but the narrator's horrible pronunciation errors made it so hard to listen to.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Bad Narration

The narrator had poor pronunciation. The subject and history was interesting and informative. I bought the book to accompany us on a trip to Napa.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting but disjointed story

What did you like best about this story?

The portions of the story relating to Mark Anderson and the 2005 fire were by far the most captivating.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

I've been listening to audio books for several years now, and this ranks among the worst narrators I have heard. Her mispronunciation of key terms like "sommelier" really detracted from the listening experience, along with her totally unemotional, flat affect. The author states in the prologue that the entire point of her researching and writing the book was to understand the passions that wine arouses in people, such that they would be willing to run so far afoul of the law. But the narration demonstrates no passion at all; it may as well have been read by Siri or a robot.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Yes, if it stayed focused on the Mark Anderson story. I truly did not understand the diversion into 19th century California and the excruciating minutiae included in that bit of the story.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

very good book but so many mispronunciations

has someone in the wine business I found this book fascinating. the author did a great job of interweaving the multiple storylines and tying them all together by the end. Sadly the narrator is not familiar with wine industry and mispronounced so many of the wine regions and grapes.

1 person found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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My single-worst audiobook experience

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Disclaimer: I live in Napa and am very familiar with the names and places in this book.

Disclaimer aside, whoever produced this book should be fired and Ms. Pearlman should not be allowed to narrate books unless she asks how to pronounce the words! It is amazing. Sometimes, a word is mispronounced repeatedly for awhile, then suddenly pronounced correctly for a bit, and then mispronounced again. Most of the problems involve names and words derived from the French, but some basic words are butchered, as well. If you want more stars, hire producers who actually give a damn and catch this sort of problem.

What could Frances Dinkelspiel have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

By her own admission, Ms. Dinkelspiel is a reporter. The book does a good job of reporting, and in that regard, it is interesting. What it lacks is the emotional connection that most books about food and wine exude. In written form, I suspect the reader brings some attachment to the subject that makes the book a good experience. In the audio form, the producer and the narrator would actually have to give a damn about the material to energize it.

How could the performance have been better?

Any book about such a specialized subject should be narrated by someone who actually knows something about the subject. Avoids distracting mispronunciations.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

This book sparked anger with Audible for producing such a bad reading. I stuck with the book because I wanted to learn about the specific subject.

Any additional comments?

DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK IN AUDIO FORM. READ THIS ONE.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Poor narration

Would you try another book from Frances Dinkelspiel and/or Dina Pearlman?

The writing was good, but I would avoid this narrator in the future.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

It was a very interesting portrait of a con man. I didn't finish listening, but am planning to get the book from the library to read the rest of the story.

Would you be willing to try another one of Dina Pearlman’s performances?

Probably not. I was frustrated with the flat narration, but even more so by the poor pronunciation of names of people and places, and even of relatively common words of foreign origin (e.g. "sommelier"). It seemed to me a little briefing/practice before the final recording would have prevented this.

Was Tangled Vines worth the listening time?

It got me interested enough to pursue finding the book, but I can't recommend this recording.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Captivating Book

As a wine enthusiast and crime story fan, this tale told a great historical journey of the California wine industry and acts of disgrace it has had to endure. finished the book in 2 days.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Story read like a long newspaper article

While the subject was compelling, the story was written in a very dry fashion, hard to stay interested.
The reader had a monotone voice that lilted down exactly the same way at the end of each sentence.
Really hard to listen to. My least favorite audible book so far.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Do not recommend audible version

I would call this more of a compendium of only scantly related stories, related to wine. On the positive side, this book is based on scholarly research and contains a great deal of very interesting information. I found the format disjointed with the back and forth between interesting 19th century California wine history and reporting about a 21st century arson and arsonist. The unifying factor was wine made by the author's ancestor in the 19th century, some of which ended up in the fire, but this through line is much more relevant to the author than reader in my opinion. Some reviewers seemed to like the arsonist's story and some like the California history, not many seemed to like both. I fall in the history group, as the author uncovered much information about California wine history from the 19th century little known or forgotten. The arsonist covered in excruciating detail isn't the least bit interesting as a person, and the catastrophic fire he caused, and the resulting devastation for many wine producers, is well known and could be detailed in a magazine article without missing much. The best features of the book are ruined by awful narration in the audible version. Robotic and rife with constantly mispronounced words that anyone familiar with wines or the wine industry would know. Malpractice for any good narrator.