Virginia vineyard victim of $50k grape theft

Firefly Hill Vineyards in Elliston, Virginia has reported losses of US$50,000 after thieves stole two and a half tons of soon-to-be harvested grapes over night from the 37-acre family-owned estate.

Having began their winemaking journey in 2006 after buying the estate from family members in 2002, co-founder David Dunkenberger said in a Facebook post that the thieves had stolen “from my spirit and heart”.

It is believed the thieves broke into the vineyard over night on Monday 10 September. Dunkenberger’s daughters had taken grape samples on Sunday and the family had planned to harvest the vineyard on 11 September.

However, when Dunkenberger arrived on the morning of 11 September, “everything was gone”.

He told the Washington Post: “I can handle losing a crop to Mother Nature, but to come in and take my crop in the middle of the night and steal what we’ve worked for for eight months, that’s disheartening.

“If they were cutting, they could have picked it clean in six hours,” he said, adding that it usually took the family 12 hours to complete picking. “I have no idea what they will do with them,” he said.

Posting on Facebook, he added: “This is what thieves left me with. Less than 200lbs of grapes. They came in Monday night and knew what they were doing. Quick, efficient, multiple, pathetic pieces of excrement.

“They picked the vineyard clean stealing about 2 to 2.5 tons of 8 months of work.

“Yes the financial loss hurts. All told in labor, supplies, crop and lost wine potential totaling about $50,000, gone.

“What hurts the most is what they stole from my spirit and heart. The vineyard was a family experience. My daughters grew up in that vineyard. My family and friends helped me in that vineyard.

“Most importantly I spent time in that vineyard with my father. Cherished memories spoiled by a bunch of low life, no soul, heartless excuses for human beings. I hope these individuals will read this. Please know a slow and lingering death will never be long enough for you and no amount of pain you could endure will great enough”.

The vineyard is planted with vinifera varieties Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, hybrids Vidal Blanc and Traminette, and native American varieties Niagara and Cayuga.

It is thought the thieves simply cut whole bunches off the vines, removing the netting protecting the vines in the process and replacing it once they had finished.

The incident is currently being investigated by the Montgomery County sheriff’s office.

4 Responses to “Virginia vineyard victim of $50k grape theft”

  1. Eric Hemer says:

    First and foremost, it is very sad that this happened. I feel badly for the family.

    Regarding the details, the numbers in this article are confusing. How many acres of the 37 acre estate are planted to grapes? A loss of 2-2.5 tons is the approximate yield of an acre or less. So unless there is only a 1 acre vineyard, surely they could not have been wiped out entirely. Not even a large team of skilled pickers could clear out 37 acres in 6 hours. An explanation would be of interest, thank you.

    • Ben says:

      Yeh, that sucks. But what kind of grapes were they? My concords sell at$260 per ton, Riesling in the ginger lakes goes at about $1600 per ton. Most expensive I’ve ever seen is $2600 for hand picked, 1.5 ton per acre Cab Sauv.
      I guess the wine potential on 2 tons would be , on the outside350 gallons frim2 tons, which makes about 1750 bottles. Even at that, to get to$50000, you would have to be chargingalmost $25 a bottle for it. However, it is not the potential sales that make up the value of the grapes, it would be the cost to buy the grapes to replace them, between $520 and(for ultra premium east coast grapes)$5200. Still a loss, but not 50k. Plus, my business is insured, why isn’t yours?

  2. Keithp says:

    Sounds like less than $5000 worth of grapes not $50,000. Even with bottled wine it would be less than 2000 bottles. Not heard of anyone that gets over $25 a bottle for Niagara or Vidal which would be after winemaking and bottling costs.

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