French Laundry Wine Heist – Could tech have helped catch thieves?

With the increased value of rare wines -- notable DRC and Napa Cult Cabs -- should collectors and investors be turning to technology to help protect investments?

French Laundry stolen wines worth $300,000
French Laundry restaurant in Yountville (Napa Valley). On Christmas Day thieves made off with $300,000 of rare French and California wines.

Could a simple tech solution help catch the perps who stole $300,000 of rare wine from the French Laundry restaurant in Napa?

French Laundry usually makes headlines for any number of reasons: they’re outstanding Chef Thomas Keller who plates some of the finest dishes in the known culinary world, often exorbitant bills, and stories of how hard it is to get a table here (Michelin 3 stars will do that to a restaurant).

But lately the news at French Laundry has been all about the “wine heist.” On Christmas Day 76 bottles worth $300,000 (US) were reportedly stolen. One the bottles, a Screaming Eagle Cabernet, alone was valued at about $6,500 per bottle. Not the most pleasant holiday news for Chef Keller and his team.

Clearly the thieves knew what they were doing. They went straight for the expensive Burgundians and cult Napa Cabs. And, like we saw earlier at Plumed Horse, lesser valued bottles were left behind.

Many are wondering how the perpetrators will fence the wines. These would be likely be easily spotted on Craigslist, eBay, or potentially recognized if someone were to be sold bold to try to sell them in person to a local restaurant or collector.

Screaming-Eagle-Wine

My guess, however, is the deal was already done in advance of the score. Someone offered up a bounty. And those wines went immediately to that person, never again to see the light of day. I could be wrong, of course, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that location is somewhere actually within the Napa Valley.

Which got me to thinking…

What about GPS?

Could simple tracking tags, or some sort of GPS-enabled device not help track the wines? Likely these wines were in boxes. A GPS tag could easily be attached. Or, even if the bottles were freestanding in the French Laundry cellar, could a small tracking device be attached to the punt (on bottom of the bottle)? Yes, they could be removed, but in haste, it would be possible that a tag or two would be carried out of the restaurant. At that point, tracking the thieves and the stolen wine bottles would be as easy as finding a lost iPhone.

Then again, maybe the wine bottles did have some form of security that was disabled – I’ve yet to see any more details on that aspect of the story.

As wines — especially the likes of DRC, Napa Cults — increase in value, I wonder if collectors will turn to technology to help protect their investments.

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