Frances Dinkelspiel is an award-winning author and journalist. Her most recent book, Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California, was a New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and was named a best wine book of 2015 by the Wall Street Journal, Food and Wine magazine, and the San Jose Mercury News.
Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, was also a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller. The San Francisco Chronicle and the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association both named it a Best Book of the Year. Towers of Gold was also a finalist for the Northern California Book Awards.
A graduate of Stanford University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Frances started her reporting career at the Syracuse Newspapers in upstate New York and later moved to the San Jose Mercury News.
Frances’s freelance articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Daily Beast, People Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine and elsewhere.
In 2009, after watching newspapers decimate their local reporting staffs, Frances co-founded Berkeleyside, a news site about Berkeley, CA. Berkeleyside has twice won the “Best Community News Site” award from the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists.
Frances is an accomplished speaker who has delivered more than 200 lectures on the history of California, Isaias Hellman, the role Jews made to the development of the state, and the history of wine in California. She has given talks at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, the Huntington Library, the Los Angeles Public Library’s ALOUD program, the San Francisco Public Library, the California Historical Society, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, and elsewhere.
Frances has also appeared in a number of television shows and documentaries, including NBC’s genealogy show, “Who Do You Think You Are?” with Academy Award-winning actress Helen Hunt. She was also featured in the documentary, “American Jerusalem: Jews and the Making of San Francisco.”
In 2013, Frances received a Hess Winery Fellowship to attend the Napa Valley Wine Writers Symposium. She has also been a San Francisco Public Library Laureate and an honored author at the Berkeley Public Library Authors’ Dinner.
Frances was a faculty member in 2015 at the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley writing conference. She has also taught at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
Frances serves on the board of Litquake, the renowned literary festival in the Bay Area. She is the former president of the Judah L. Magnes Museum and Park Day School in Oakland, CA. She has also served on the boards of the Friends of the Bancroft Library, the Friends of the Magnes, and the Library Advisory Board for UC Berkeley.
Frances is a fifth-generation California who was born in San Francisco. She now lives in Berkeley with her husband, Gary Wayne, who works in the solar energy business. She has two adult daughters.