As wine lovers filed out of the Bacara Resort toward the end of the annual World of Pinot Noir’s grand tasting on Friday, March 4, a bold blonde bandit began her work. Dressed in a black and white shirt, the woman took two luggage racks into the grand ballroom, loaded up more than 20 cases of expensive wine likely worth more than $10,000, and covered them with linens. She then moved quickly toward the exit, met two men in a Toyota Tacoma truck waiting in the valet line, and took off with the stolen loot. It was a wine event heist like no other.
“There’s always drunken idiots who try to steal a couple bottles at the end of the night, but this is super-calculated,” said winemaker Leslie Mead Renaud, who had five cases of her Roth and Four Graces wine stolen, valued at $2,500. “The fact that she had two guys at the valet and rolling luggage carts seemed pretty planned to me.”
The woman strategically gathered the wine as the tasting event shut down for the evening, with winemakers thinking she was a Bacara representative and Bacara people believing she was with a winery. “She very authoritatively started grabbing cases of full wine,” said Renaud, noting that imports from Australia and New Zealand were also targeted. “A couple people asked if their missing wine was on the cart, because she also had linens over the boxes, but she assured people it was absolutely not their wine.”
Due to surveillance footage, Renaud — who is president of the WOPN event, which many simply call “whoppin’” — identified the alleged culprit as a schoolteacher who lives in Las Vegas. Renaud has since presented all of the evidence — including name, birth date, phone number, address, footage of the crime, and corroborating information, such as eyewitnesses and social media posts of the woman wearing the same outfit at a different event — to the S.B. County Sheriff’s Office. In fact, one of the wineries involved recognized her as one of their club members who was suspected of recently stealing a bottle of wine.
Renaud said the Sheriff’s Office accepted the evidence and was weighing whether to pursue an arrest in the case, which would involve extradition from Nevada. “They didn’t leave me with a great feeling that they would pursue this,” said Renaud, as the department gives greater priority to crimes against people over property crimes.
In the meantime, the “WOPN Bandit” will live in wine industry infamy, as even some of the victims were impressed with the brazen heist. Said one well respected female sommelier, “She’s got some big ovaries!”