Winery owner arrested after party turns sour


A Saturday night blending party at a Mendocino County winery ended in multiple arrests after sheriff’s deputies said they were confronted and assaulted by the winery’s owner.

County deputies responded to Testa Vineyards in Calpella just after midnight following a call for assistance from the California Highway Patrol.

Upon arrival, the deputies encountered a group of people — who appeared to have been drinking — being shuttled in golf carts to a private parking lot a few blocks away.

Testa Vineyards owner 48-year-old Clyde “Rusty” Martinson was belligerent and drunk when he shoved and threw a beer can at a responding deputy, according to a press release from the Mendocino County sheriff’s office.

After a hostile crowd surrounded the deputy, some of those gathered came to his assistance, wrestling Martinson to the ground.

As Martinson was being restrained, a drunk and “agitated” 49-year-old James Thompson approached officers and was arrested for public intoxication.

After securing Thompson in the back of a police cruiser, officers turned their attention back to Martinson, who was still being restrained.

While officers arrested the uncooperative Martinson, deputies said someone in the crowd freed the handcuffed Thompson from the back of the patrol vehicle.

Authorities were unable to locate Thompson after he escaped until the following morning, when he turned himself in at the sheriff’s office in Ukiah. Thompson had injuries to his wrists where it appears his handcuffs were cut off, according to the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office also said that an anonymous tip identified Charlene Testa, 59, as the person who helped Thompson escape. They say Testa admitted to assisting Thompson and that the Mendocino County District Attorney’s office was reviewing a charge of lynching against Testa.

Testa Vineyards’ website shows their third annual “Barn, Blending, BBQ” event was scheduled to end Saturday night at 10 p.m.

Jesse Garnier
Jesse Garnier is the editor and founder of SFBay. A Mission District native, he also teaches journalism as associate professor at San Francisco State University.

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