Burglars targeting San Francisco Italian fine-wine shops

Burglars are targeting wine shops in San Francisco's Russian Hill neighborhood and making off with expensive bottles of fine Italian wine.

The motive remains unclear.

"Is this someone in the wine world who is taking these and plugging them into their own inventory?" asked Essam Kardosh, co-owner of Habibi Bar, which was victimized last week.

It's anyone's guess, but one thing is clear— the thief isn't after "Two Buck Chuck."

"It seems like he knows what he's looking for," said Ceri Smith, owner of wine boutique Biondivino.

Surveillance video shows a man with a crowbar outside Biondivino at about 5 a.m. on March 18.

As he tries to pry open the door, he drops the crowbar. A little later, a gleaming flash of light appears.

"I see this bright light, and I studied art in university, and I was like, 'That is a welding torch!'" Smith recalled.

The suspect then went back to using the crowbar, which then set off the alarm. That's when he took off.

San Francisco police arrived within minutes, but the would-be burglar was long gone.

"No idea if the guy is just an avid wine lover that's gonna go home and enjoy these or if he's trying to sell them on the gray market," Smith said.

And last week, someone used a crowbar to break into Habibi Bar, stealing 65 bottles of wine worth more than $6,000.

"High-end Italians, specifically Barolo Barbaresco, which generally retails anywhere from $80 to $500 a bottle," said Kardosh.

Kardosh said the thief also grabbed other bottles that sounded Italian but left more expensive wines alone.

"It really doesn't seem like they knew what they were doing, but they had an idea. I could be wrong," Kardosh said.

Wine thefts aren't uncommon.

Two men pleaded guilty to stealing wine worth more than $500,000 from the French Laundry in Yountville back in 2014. They also stole bottles from Alexander's Steakhouse in Cupertino and Fine Wines International in San Francisco.