Category: short story series

Death of Wine Snob (Part 3)

This is the continuation of a short story about the murder of a wine expert. Parts one and two can be read here and here.

“Nice job perk,” I said as I circled the car and admired the lines and the rich interior. “What does one of these cost?”

Forty-five minutes later I pulled into the parking lot of the Timber Ridge Winery. The building was large, with a modern design with lots of steel and glass. I followed a sign to the front door that led to a reception area and tasting room. The place smelled like wine and wood polish. The room was spacious, with wood paneling and floors, and a long bar. Some nicely finished wooden tables and chairs dotted the space. One wall had an interpretive display of photos and text under a big headline that said ‘How Wine is Made’.

A stunning, tall blond in an expensive dress and high heels near the bar spotted me and walked over. She had a small brass name tag pinned to her dress high on her right breast that said ‘Gretchen’.

“May I help you?” she said with a vaguely European accent.

“Yes, thank you,” I stammered. “I am a Detective from the Newberg Police Department. I am here to see Mr. Dobson.”

She moved closer and laid a hand on my arm. She smelled good and I began to feel as awkward as a 7th grader at his first school dance.

“Is Mr. Dobson expecting you?”


“May I tell him your name?” she said.

“Yes, it’s Detective Manley.”

“Really,” she said with a wry smile. “The name suits you. If you would follow me.”

She motioned to a door at the back of the room and led the way. The door opened into a large room lined with shelves and counters. At one end, near French doors that opened into a garden, was a large desk with a couple of side chairs in front of it. Wine racks, stuffed with hundreds of bottles of wine took up most of the shelf space. Other shelves held a variety of wine glasses of different shapes and sizes.

As we walked in, she said, “This is Mr. Dobson’s workroom. We call it the lab.”

To our left, a man stood in front of some trash containers pulling bottles out of one and dropping them into another marked “Recycling”. He gave us a baleful glare and then left through the door we had come through.

She watched him go and said, “Can’t have glass in the regular trash. It drives Dave crazy. He is so adamant about recycling.”

“That was Dave Cooper?” I said.


“Could you tell him I would like to talk to him after I am done with Mr. Dobson?”

“Yes, I will,” she said.

She led me over to the desk and offered me a seat and said, “Werner will be right with you Detective Manley,” and then glided out of the room the way we had come in. I watched her go. Couldn’t help myself. Then I sat and looked around the room and a few minutes later the door opened and Werner Dobson made his entrance.

Werner was an intense-looking, middle age man, a bit below average height and a bit above average weight, with thick, well-barbered dark hair and handsome, dignified features. He greeted me politely enough but there was no friendliness in it. He sat down behind his desk.

“What is this all about, Detective?” he said.

“I am investigating the homicide of Peter Joseph. He was murdered last night, and we are trying to interview those who may have had contact with him recently to see if they know something that might lead us to a killer. Do you know Mr. Joseph?”

“Peter is dead?” He seemed surprised but not particularly saddened by the news.

“So, you know him?” I said.

“Sure. Not well, but everyone in the local industry knows Peter. He writes about wines, sometimes well, so he was one of those on the edge of the wine industry around here that it paid to know and to suck up to from time to time. “

“Sounds like you didn’t like him,” I said to see if I could get a reaction.

“I didn’t dislike him enough to kill him if that’s what you are looking for. I would say I was more ambivalent when it came to Peter. I had some respect for his opinions, but he was often a little wrongheaded and reckless.”

“Have you been in contact with him in the last few days?”

“You know I have, Detective. Why else would you be here? You have probably been talking to Boyd Schantz.”

I acknowledged it with a nod and a shrug in hopes he would keep talking.

He did, “Peter came out here last Friday. He would showcase local wineries in his column, and he came out to take a look at our operation. He came. He got the tour. Then we met with Dave Cooper and tasted some of the stock from the cellar. He arrived after lunch and left around 4:00 PM. Then I talked to him on the phone Saturday and then ran into him at a tasting room in downtown Newberg that night.”

“What was the phone conversation about?”

“He was basically letting me know what he was going to say in the column and wanted to get my reaction.”

“Is that what led to the confrontation at the tasting room that night?”

He smiled for the first time, “So that’s it. You think I am a suspect because he was going to pan my wine in his column. Well, you are wrong. Sure, we disagreed about what he was going to write about the latest vintage, but it was nothing to murder someone over. More of a difference of opinion. He had influence but not that much.”

I told him about the circumstances of Joseph’s death and his face went pale.

“That’s horrible,” he said, looking shocked. “If that were to get out…”

“Any ideas on who might have been angry enough to do something like that?” I asked. “Or why they would pick a wine from your winery?”

“No idea. I assure you it wasn’t me. Maybe it was someone who overheard our discussion at the tasting room, and they want to embarrass me. I don’t know.”

“Where were you last night?” I asked.

“At home. All night. With a friend.”

“Does this friend have a name? I might need to check your story.”

He pursed his lips and looked at the floor for a moment, thinking. Then he said, “She does, but I would not want to embarrass her unless I have to. If it comes to the point where I need an alibi, I will tell you who it was.”

“Fair enough,” I said. I didn’t like it. I would have preferred to strike him off the list of suspects sooner than later if I could.

“Okay,” I said as I rose from the chair. “Thank you for your time. If anything occurs to you, give me a call. Here’s my card. I’ll find my own way out.”

He took the card and I turned and left.


I left the room through the same door that I came in. Gretchen and Dave Cooper were standing near one of the front windows talking. He was tall and slim, wearing work clothes, and boots. He had a full head of longish dark hair. He moved closer to her and tried to put his arm around her waist, and she brushed it aside and moved away. I walked toward them, and they both turned as I approached.

“Ah. Detective Manley. This is Dave Cooper.”

The man looked disconcerted, offered a handshake, and said, “I am Dave Cooper. How can I help you?”

I shook his hand and then badged him and said, “Detective Manley with the Newberg Police. I am investigating the death of Peter Joseph. He was murdered last night in his home. Do you know him?”

“Sure, I know him,” he paused and blinked absently for a moment as he seemed to process the news. “What? He was murdered?”

“Yes. Someone shot him in the head.”

“Good God. Why would someone kill Peter?”

“Well, that is the question isn’t it, or at least one of them. When was the last time you saw him?”

“It would have been Saturday night. I was at a tasting room downtown with Werner, and we ran into Peter there. Werner and Peter got into a little verbal altercation over something Peter was writing about the winery.”

“Do you remember what it was about?”

“Sure, I do,” he said, his voice becoming a little more strident. “Peter came to the winery on Friday for a tour and a tasting, and he apparently didn’t think much of our latest Pinot. He planned to write about it in his column as if his opinion counts for anything.”

“How did that make you feel?”

“What do mean?”

“You don’t seem to think much of his opinion. How did it make you feel that he was taking that slant on a wine that I suppose you were at least partly responsible for producing?”

“Well, it made me angry,” he said, his face reddening. “The man was a dilettante—a poser. He seemed to think that since he owned a forty-thousand-dollar bottle of wine, he was an expert. In fact, he didn’t know squat.”

I said, “Did it make you angry enough to kill him?”

“Good heavens no,” he said without hesitation. “Sure, he could sway the opinions of some weak-minded people but certainly not enough to make a difference, or enough to make it worth killing him.”

“Where were you last night?”

He gave me an insolent look and said, “At home. I got home early and read until around ten and then went to bed. No, no one was here with me if that is your next question.”

“Okay,” I said. “I think that covers everything. If you can think of anything that might help the investigation, please call me.”

I handed him a card.

“I will,” he said, “but I can’t think what that would be.”

I shrugged and nodded at the card in his hand, and said, “Well just in case. By the way, someone I talked to said you and Werner drove off in a Maserati. Was that your car?”

“Yes, we were driving mine on Saturday. Werner also has one. They’re company cars. They are supposed to promote an affluent image for the winery.”

“Do you have one here?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said. “Do you want to see it?”

I nodded yes, and he led me out to the parking lot and over to a dark blue, convertible sports car parked in a reserved space nearby.

“Here it is,” he said. “A Maserati GranTurismo convertible. The winery owns two of them. This is mine and Werner drives the other.”

“Nice job perk,” I said as I circled the car and admired the lines and the rich interior. “What does one of these cost?”

“About $150,000. They make great chick magnets, but they also tend to attract traffic cops and door dings.”

“Mind if I take a picture?” I said holding up my phone.

“Go ahead.”

I did and then thanked him for his time and left.

Link to Part 4