Rare wine grapes stolen from Benton County vineyard




Posted on September 24, 2010 at 5:04 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 24 at 5:14 PM

NEAR BENTON CITY, Wash. - Talk about weird crime.

Somebody pulled up to a Benton County vineyard within the last week and ripped off a ton of grapes. And not just any old grapes. They were Bushvine Mourvedre, grown on the bush, not strung out on trellises like most other grapes. That might be pretty common in some parts of France, but not in the Red Mountain appellation area of Eastern Washington or anywhere else in the state for that matter.

“This is a very exotic grape for Washington State,” says Paul McBride, one of the partners in Grand Reve Vintners. Grand Reve planted the Mourvedre three years ago and this would have been their first harvest to use for winemaking.

“Mourvedre is typically grown in the Southern Rhone regions of France. There are some plantings of it in Washington State but still very, very light compared to Cabernet, Merlot, some of those varietals," said McBride.

Vineyard Manager Ryan Johnson tells us it looked like a professional job - a complete and clean illegal harvest of about 2,000 pounds of the rare grapes.
“Whoever it was, knew what they were doing. They were very thorough," said Johnson.

And they took only the Mourvedre, nothing else.

Both partners are puzzled about the crime. The Washington wine industry is a pretty tight little community, most of who support and pull for the other local operations whenever they can. When one has success, the rest of the State’s winemakers can bask in their glow. They generally save their competitive fire for out-of-staters.

And that makes what seems like a local, inside-the-industry job very odd to Paul and Ryan. Who did it? Somebody who clearly knew wine, knew how to harvest grapes, knew about the Bushvine Mourvedre planting at the Grand Reve Vineyard and presumably has the equipment to immediately make use of the rare grapes.

“For somebody in the state to think 'Gosh, I have just got to have that Bushvine Mourvedre,’” muses Paul McBride, “that takes a real wine geek.”