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December 6, 2013 at 3:58 PM

Cold weather could threaten Seattle wine thieves’ haul

Management at Sodo’s Esquin Wine & Spirits have a message for the people who made off with more than $600,000 worth of high-end wine last week: There’s a good reason wine lovers pay for temperature-controlled storage lockers.

“What the thieves may not know,” Esquin spokesman Dan Miller said in a statement today, “is that with these cold temperatures we’re seeing in the region, if they haven’t properly stored the wine they stole, it could quickly become worthless, particularly if the wine freezes, making their whole criminal operation all for” naught.

Esquin hopes to get the wine back, hopefully in the same condition it was in when it was stolen.

Wine experts say wine should be stored in the dark, at around 55 degrees. Just as high temperatures are harmful to wine, subfreezing temperatures — like the ones the Seattle area has seen all week — are also damaging.

While the effect of temperature on wine depends on a number of factors, Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Managing Editor Joe Czerwinski said in an email that, typically, “Wine freezes around 23 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the alcohol content. Once frozen the wine will expand and often push the cork out therefore breaking the seal and spoiling the wine.”

Police have arrested one suspect and are seeking a second. The stolen wine — more than 200 cases valued at $648,000 — remains missing, police said today.

The company is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of the stolen wine. Anyone with information is urged to call the Seattle Police Department.

According to police, the sophisticated heist was carried out by two men who went to great — though not hugely successful — lengths to cover their tracks. They rented a storage locker at Esquin’s facility several months ago, then cased the joint a few weeks later, police said.

On the day before the break-in, the thieves covered surveillance cameras by spray painting over the lenses and disabled motion detectors by wrapping them in plastic bags, police said.

On Nov. 28, the thieves stole the wine over a 13-hour period, making nine separate trips in an SUV to move the stolen vino. Before they left the wine retail and storage facility on Fourth Avenue, the men allegedly tampered with two gas lines in an attempt to cause an explosion and fire, police said.

The pair, however, missed one camera, and employees were able to find old surveillance video that allegedly showed one of the suspects renting the storage locker in October, police said. That suspect, Samuel Arby Harris, 34, of Seattle, was arrested on Monday at the address he used in the rental application, police said.

Harris has been charged in King County Superior Court with first-degree burglary, second-degree theft and first-degree attempted arson. He is being held in the King County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.


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