Wines & Vines Home
   
 
Welcome Guest
LOGIN |  CREATE ACCOUNT
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 
 
08.06.2013  
 

Temecula Tasting Room Heist

Thieves nab art from Cougar Vineyard and Winery: Reward offered

 
by Jane Firstenfeld
 
 
cougar vineyards art
 
This 5-foot by 3-foot oil painting was stolen from the tasting room at Cougar Vineyard & Winery.
Temecula, Calif.—The theft of a large original painting from the Cougar Vineyard & Winery tasting room remains unsolved. Owners Rick and Jennifer Buffington are offering a reward and actively seeking the return of the canvas, a gift commissioned by Jennifer Buffington’s brother. The oil by Virginia artist Christopher Mize depicts bottles of Cougar wine, one clearly inscribed “Congratulations Rick and Jennifer.”

The Buffingtons left for a trip to Italy on June 9; upon their return some three weeks later, they realized the 5- x 3-foot painting was gone from its mounting above a door between the winery’s deli and restrooms. Consulting with staff, they narrowed down the time period it went missing to daytime hours June 10-11.

One employee reported, “A couple said they’d bought it,” Jennifer Buffington said. Previously, Buffington had spoken with a couple who loved it and wanted a copy. “We don’t have a lot of information,” she said. “I just can’t understand how someone could walk out the door with that thing in broad daylight,” Rick Buffington said.

They reported the theft to the Riverside County Sheriff’s department, but not yet to their insurer. “We’re still hoping to get it back,” Buffington told Wines & Vines. “We’re offering a $500 reward.” The couple has posted milk carton “missing” signs on winery property.

Riverside Sheriff Department deputy Julio Oseguera confirmed that the grand theft is a felony and said the department is using its normal methods of investigation for this type of property crime: Scouring pawn shop receipts, Craigslist and eBay listings as well as social media. Deputies questioned the winery cleaning crew.

“I suggest putting it out on the neighborhood watch. Network. We depend on networking help with community. In this type of case, the community is our eyes and ears.”

Buffington said she believes the painting was taken by someone who loves it and now has it on display at home. Oseguera agreed that it might very well show up on a Facebook page as background to a home wine tasting.

Talking with winery neighbors, Buffington said, tasting room pilferage is not too unusual. One winery took the step of screwing down small pieces of art in the bathrooms and placing signs warning of “bad karma” to those who might pry art off the walls.

“We heard of people stealing grape-decorated light switch plates,” she said. Cougar used to sell decorative trinkets, but they discontinued the practice after the items started disappearing.

Because the new Cougar tasting room was still under construction at the time of the theft, there were no alarm or surveillance cameras in place. “When we get the painting back, we’ll put an alarm on it,” Buffington said optimistically.

A life-size wooden cougar is on display in the tasting room now.  “Maybe we’ll put a sign on it: Filled with lead and bees,” Buffington said. The 4,500-case winery, named for Cougar Mountain near the Buffingtons’ former home in Bellevue, Wash., sells some 98% of its wine direct-to-consumer.

Keep your tasting room secure
Fortunately, grand theft art is not typical in winery tasting rooms, according to seasoned observers. Although tasting rooms are often full of pricey small objects, merchandise theft is not a major problem.

“It’s not a crime wave,” tasting room consultant Veronica Barclay confirmed. Art theft is unusual, she said. “Most winery theft investigations have involved tour groups or employees. A lot of wineries have video cameras on employees and tasting rooms. These prevent pricier things from walking out the door.”

Decorative, oversize, expensive wine bottles can be a target. “These are usually inside- or tour group jobs,” Barclay said. “Those are the ones that get to court. I’ve never heard of art walking off the walls.”

A few years ago, solar panels were a major target of vineyard/winery thefts. These days, Barclay said, “What we’re seeing is anything with copper.”

Due to its prime location between Los Angeles and San Diego, “Thousands and thousands of people visit Temecula wineries. It’s as busy as Highway 29,” Napa Valley’s main artery, said Craig Root, a tasting room consultant for 30-some years.

Root contends that pilferage is not as prevalent in tasting rooms as in, say, supermarkets. “It’s kind of a self-selecting crowd,” he noted.

He recalled his wine industry roots working in the tasting room at Beaulieu Vineyard in Oakville, Calif., right beside Highway 29. “We had two display bottles on a pedestal. Two or three times a year, one would go missing. When you’ve got hundreds of thousands of visitors, that’s not a crime wave.”

He agreed with Barclay that bigger crowds can distract employees, but said he hadn’t seen this kind of theft. “This is kind of an anomaly,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Buffingtons still hope to retrieve their special painting. Should you see it, contact them at the winery with details. 

SHARE »
Close
 
Currently no comments posted for this article.
 
CURRENT NEWS INDEX »


 
Wines & Vines Home
 
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
info@winesandvines.com
Wine Industry Metrics
 
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
October 2014 $570 million
6%
$7,775 million
6%
October 2013 $539 million $7,342 million
     
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
October 2014 $284 million
18%
$1,751 million
13%
October 2013 $240 million $1,556 million
     
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
October 2014 139
6%
226
18%
October 2013 131 192
     
 
MORE » Released on 11.13.2014
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 

Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
 
Search the PWV archive »
 
 

Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
2014
 
Download full report »
 
 

CALENDAR
  • November 16-23
     
    San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival
     
  • November 19-23
     
    Flavor! Napa Valley
     
  • November 20-21
     
    San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers annual meeting
     
  • November 20-22
     
    Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival
     
  • MORE »
 

READER COMMENTS
 
Article: Kluge Saga Continues in Virginia »
 
Not everybody likes Pat Kluge, but she and Moses built a first class winery /...
Reader: Josh Moser
 
Article: Canada Adapts to Kegged Wines »
 
I am a wine agent in Manitoba & there certainly are kegs of cider here....
Reader: Guest
 
Article: What's Your Winery's IP Worth? »
 
If you would like more information on this seminar please visit The Seminar Group's website....
Reader: Danielle Bingham
 
Article: DtC Is Lifeblood of Wineries, Banker Says »
 
Seems like another locical option would be to have more small niche distrbutors. Consolidation of...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Tasting Wine From PD-Resistant Grapes »
 
Congratulations Andy! Lots of grapebreeders and southern growers will be looking through the catalogs. i...
Reader: Guest
 
 


Directory/Buyer's Guide — Your Wine Industry Marketplace
 
 
WINERY SEARCH
 
 
Advanced Search »
SUPPLIER SEARCH
   by Product
 by Company Name or Brand
 
Browse by Category »
2015 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
 
 
EXPANDED ONLINE SEARCH INCLUDED WITH PURCHASE
 
ORDER NOW »
 
LEARN MORE »
 
 
Wines & Vines Magazine
 
 
LEARN MORE »
 
SUBSCRIBE »
 
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
 
LEARN MORE »
 
ORDER NOW »
 
 
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
 
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
 
FREE LIVE DEMO »
 
VIEW VIDEO »
 
 
 
 
Latest Job Listings
 Viticulturist 1 (Grape...
 Modesto, CA
Winemaking and Production
 Assistant Winemaker
 Healdsburg, CA
Winemaking and Production
 Cellar Worker 3
 Napa, CA
Winemaking and Production
 Market Sales Manager
 San Diego, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Pernod Ricard Retail A...
 Cheyenne, WY
Sales and Marketing
 Sales Consultants
 Fairfield & New Haven Counties, CT
Sales and Marketing
 Territory Sales Repres...
 Monterey, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Fine Wine And Spirits ...
 New York, NY
Sales and Marketing
 Accounting Clerk
 King City, CA
Finance
 Experienced Lab Tech/B...
 King City, CA
Winemaking and Production
 
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:
 
 





Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
 
 
Copyright © 2001-2014 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.