With harvest season arriving, there’s much for grape growers and winemakers to be fearful of. “There isn’t a farmer alive that doesn’t know the risks of losing a crop year after year,” Virginia winery Firefly Hill Vineyards shared in a recent Facebook post. “What they don’t expect is to lose it to thievery.”
The Elliston, Va. winery was the victim of an alleged grape heist on Monday night, losing up to two-and-a-half tons of their crop. Owners Allison and David Dunkenberger arrived at their property on Tuesday morning to find that thieves had stripped their vines, leaving them with less than 200 pounds of grapes, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.
Speaking to the Times-Dispatch, Allison Dunkenberger suggested that the thieves had to have had some kind of knowledge about the winery’s operations, as the grapes were not visible from nearby North Fork Road. The couple planned to begin the harvest on Tuesday morning.
“We still can’t wrap our heads around this … We’re just in the grieving process,” she said.
David Dunkenberger was stronger in his condemnation of the incident, sharing his feelings via multiple (understandably) aggrieved Facebook posts.
“I want to thank you for proving our society has hit rock bottom,” Dunkenberger wrote, addressing the alleged thieves. “All told in labor, supplies, crop and lost wine potential totaling about $50,000, gone.”
Besides insider knowledge, the thieves likely had some kind of harvesting experience. They were able to pick the majority of the vineyard’s crop between sundown and dawn, a feat that normally takes the Dunkenbergers multiple days, with the help of friends and family.
The financial implications of the robbery are hard-hitting. The vineyard is currently closed, but Firefly Hill aims to continue winemaking, saying, “Life goes on and if this is the worst thing that happens to us, we have it made.”