Ready to crack open a new book and uncork a fresh bottle?

Let’s go with non-fiction again.

The book is titled Priceless – How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures.

This is the true story of Robert K. Wittman (the book is co-authored by John Shiffman) who gave up his newspaper management position to work for the FBI.  After making this switch, he earned less than half of his previous income, but plunged into a field that kept him hungry for learning more.  After beginning the new job, Wittman focused on the crime he found most intriguing – art theft.  He read all he could about heists of world masterpieces, attended art classes, and eventually led teams to recover stolen art from throughout the world.  His story includes dealings with shady characters – including a collector who brazenly hung a stolen Norman Rockwell painting in his Brazilian home, a Santa Fe art dealer eager to sell an eagle- feather headdress, and a pair of hoodlums who swapped their stolen Rembrandt for a box of cash in a Danish hotel room.

The book intersperses details of sting operations with tales of personal tragedy.  It describes frustrations with bureaucracy, and recalls the author’s fears about dodgy operations.  Once, while in a luxury hotel room in Hollywood, Florida, Wittman met two French killers nicknamed Chocolate and Vanilla; after these men decided to kill him, Wittman needed to convince them otherwise.

Here’s an opening excerpt:

Miami, 2007

“The platinum Rolls-Royce with bulletproof windows glided east onto the Palmetto Expressway toward Miami Beach, six stolen paintings stashed in its armor-plated trunk.

“Great works by Degas, Dali, Klimt, O’Keefe, Soutine, and Chagall were piled rudely in the rear, wrapped individually in thin brown paper and clear packing tape.  In the driver’s seat, a Parisian millionaire named Laurenz Cogniat pushed the three-ton beast hard.  He entered the left lane approaching eighty, then ninety miles an hour, the vehicle’s menacing stainless-steel grille leading the way.”

[2010, Crown Publishers, New York]

This opening scene will keep you hungry for at least another paragraph.  So – what wine goes well with this story?  The chapter is both serious and fun (it describes how the author took two hoods on a cruise of Miami Harbor.  The boat was filled with Colombian drug dealers as well as their bikini clad, champagne-sipping playmates – all of them actually undercover FBI agents).

This suspenseful opening is playful.  For this, let’s try a Spanish Tempranillo.  The wine is versatile.  It’s bold, serious, yet smooth.  It does a grand job of blending mineral tastes with fruit flavors.

Lush Spanish hills, aching to produce luscious Tempranillo grapes

Which Tempranillo to choose?

One inexpensive, readily available bottle, is Don Quixote Tempranillo 2008; alternatively, a Valduero Crianza 2005 will do the trick.  For both, make sure to pour them in your glass before leaving it alone for ten minutes.  This gives the juice time to wake up, inhale a bit of air, and sync  up with the room temperature.  Next, take a sizable sniff of that bad boy, sniff it again, and then start sipping your way into the world of stolen art, dysfunctional criminals, and beautiful retrievals.

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