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article imageThief steals some of the world's rarest wines from CA eatery

By Megan Hamilton     Jan 1, 2015 in Crime
Yountville - A thief with a nose for high-end wines ripped through doors and made his way into the world-renowned French Laundry's huge cellar.
This thief bypassed the cheaper wines and zeroed in on the priciest wines at the Napa Valley restaurant.
It all went down on Christmas Day, SFGate reports.
News on the precise, if door-destroying heist wended its way around Northern California's restaurant scene. Detectives are probing for clues in the hopes of catching the person responsible. The burglar or burglars plundered absolutely hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of the world's rarest wines. In other words, they swiped some 76 bottles of wine from the three-star restaurant.
As such, the French Laundry is considered to be one of the world's greatest restaurants, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Make no mistake, these wines were out of John Q. Public's reach. Five enormous bottles of Moët & Chandon also vanished, Grub Street reports, and although some of the missing wine retails for as low as $70, most of these wines are priceless because very few cases have been made and inventory is low, pricing most casual drinkers out of the ballpark.
The plunderer(s) knew just what they were looking for. Jimmying open and shredding a door, they swiped wines from the Domaine de la Romanée Conti, including bottles that are worth upwards of $15,000 each.
The thief or thieves knew exactly what they were looking for and when to break in — shattering the French Laundry's cellar door after 2:00 p.m. on Christmas Day, authorities said, per SFGate. The restaurant was closed and employees didn't discovered the theft around 7:45 a.m. the next day.
The alarm hadn't been set.
"We suspect it was deliberately targeted due to the quality of the wines," Captain Doug Pike, with the Napa County Sheriff's told SFGate. "Whoever was responsible seemed to be selective. There was a small window of time when employees weren't there, so obviously someone took advantage."
This crook was "either extremely lucky, or had some knowledge" regarding when the restaurant would be untended, he said. Detectives are currently interviewing staff at the restaurant and contacting other restaurants in the area and getting the word out to buyers should the wine surface on the local market.
All told, more than $300,000 worth of wine was stolen.
"They are all really special," Dan Dawson, owner of a wine shop in the area, said of the wines, per SFGate. "The highest-end restaurants are where you would find them. They're very well-known wines."
Several of the bottles were Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon — the most sought-after wine produced in Napa Valley. A scant few hundred cases of this wine are released per vintage.
"We have complete trust in the authorities leading the investigation and welcome any information our community may have," Thomas Keller, the restaurant's chef and proprietor said in a statement. He said he hopes that if the purloined bottles show up on the market, people will raise questions and red flags will be raised to those who are knowledgeable about wines.
There was a similar burglary at another restaurant last year in the Napa Valley. Thieves made off with 24 bottles of pricey wine, and this also included bottles of the aforementioned Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, SFGate reports.
Many of the vintages can be tracked by their serial number, and if anyone tries to unload dozens of bottles, it will definitely raise a few eyebrows, Dawson said. He added that it isn't unusual to find a bottle or two of these wines for sale on the Internet, and foreign markets may not be as scrupulous about running the serial number.
"If the bottles were spread out, it would likely not raise any red flags," Dawson said.
A spokesman for the restaurant said it is "adequately insured." The restaurant recently celebrated its 20th birthday and it will bounce back, Keller said.
The restaurant is now closed, and is undergoing a long-scheduled remodeling project that will take months.
More about rare wines stolen from restaurant, thief steals rare wine, the french laundry, SFGate, michelin guide
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