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The Wrath of Grapes

This is the story of an evil, evil crime.

It’s a story about wine and grapes and lost wine. OK, so it’s a sad story.

Firefly Hill Vineyards is a winery in Elliston, between Roanoke and Blacksburg in Southwest Virginia. The label of their wine bottles is evocative – lovely shining fireflies in a valley in front of gentle hills.

This is harvest season for grapes – the fruit that the farmers have tended all year is ready to be picked and turned into a golden bottle of good cheer.

Won’t be happening for Firefly Hill this year, though.

On the night of Sept. 10, the night before the Dunkenberger family, which owns Firefly Hill, was ready to harvest this year’s grapes, thieves struck.

I’m not sure how you steal two and a half tons of grapes from the vines, but these thieves did just that, according to stories from the Roanoke Times and The Washington Post.

The fruit was worth $25,000 and, turned into wine, it would be worth about twice that. The family did not have insurance. Who’s going to carry and pay for theft coverage on grapes?

Allison Dunkenberger told the cops it could have been done only by people familiar with their operations.

David Dunkenberger was seeing red – well, white, actually. The stolen grapes apparently were destined to be white wine. On Facebook, he said the thieves “knew what they were doing.” He added that they were “[q]uick, efficient, multiple, pathetic pieces of excrement.”

Addressing the bad guys, David said, “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.”

Wow. Call that the wrath of grapes.

Once word got out, the Dunkenbergers, who have operated the winery for 12 years, received an outpouring of support from the community. Their story went national.

In a better moment, David posted another Facebook message: “I want to thank everyone for proving society has not hit rock bottom. We are truly humbled by the outpouring of support.”

He added, “Farming is hard but it’s a labor of love. There isn’t a farmer alive that doesn’t know the risks of losing a crop year after year. What they don’t expect is to lose it to thievery. Life goes on, and if this is the worst thing that happens to us, we have it made. We are fortunate to have family and friends we cherish.”

He concluded, “As for me, I’m with my family and enjoying a nice glass of wine. I encourage everyone to do the same. Pass it on.”

Cheers, David, and here’s to better days.

– Paul Fletcher