Grape dealer sues over fruit quality

Suit seeks damage, cites lost profits
2014-04-11T17:57:00Z Grape dealer sues over fruit qualityKERANA TODOROV Napa Valley Register
April 11, 2014 5:57 pm  • 

A grape négociant is suing the owners of an Oak Knoll vineyard for more than $180,000 in damages and lost profits over the quality of fruit from the 2013 harvest, according to court records.

Agajanian Vineyards Inc., which had a contract to buy 10 acres of cabernet sauvignon grapes from Chateau Dallage Vineyards in 2013, 2014 and 2015, alleged the grapes in 2013 did not meet quality specifications, according to the complaint filed in Napa County Superior Court on March 17.

Agajanian, which had bought grapes from Chateau Dallage in prior years, planned to purchase the grapes and resell them to a winery, Raymond Vineyard and Cellar, according to the complaint.

Raymond Vineyard and Cellar, which had a separate contract with Agajanian, is not a party in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges Chateau Dallage Vineyards, located in the 1000 block of Oak Knoll Avenue north of Napa, failed to properly maintain the grapes during the 2013 growing season. As a result, the crop “did not meet the quality specifications of the 2013 contract, the parties’ oral agreements, or the implied terms of the 2013 contract.”

Agajanian did not buy the grapes.

Agajanian suffered a minimum of $60,000 in damages and prospective profits and another $120,000 in lost profits stemming from the Chateau Dallage’s breach of the 2013 contract, according to the 11-page complaint.

John Heffner, an attorney who represents Chateau Dallage Vineyards’ owners Gay and Ward Studt, said Thursday his clients deny the allegations the grapes did not meet specified quality.

“Agajanian was not damaged at all,” said Heffner, a director at Dickenson Peatman and Fogarty. “They were just trying to get out of the contract.”

Agajanian backed out of the contract in early September, leaving Chateau Dallage scrambling to find another buyer in a market flooded with grapes, Heffner said.

“They were left right before harvest with no one to buy the grapes,” Heffner said.

Gay and Ward Studt nonetheless managed to sell the grapes to another buyer, but at a lower price, Heffner said.

His clients will file a cross-complaint, Heffner said.

Eric Pooler, a representative for Raymond Vineyard and Cellar, on Friday reiterated that “Raymond Vineyard and Cellar has no relation to any legal action related to Gay and Ward Studt (Chateau Dallage) or Agajanian Vineyards.”

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(2) Comments

  1. ni4ni
    Report Abuse
    ni4ni - April 15, 2014 9:38 pm
    The vineyard owner who grossly overcropped the vineyard has not been forthright in providing all information surrounding the crop rejection to their lawyer, Mr. Heffner. I can't believe DickPeatFog took this case on.
  2. chilesvalley
    Report Abuse
    chilesvalley - April 17, 2014 10:13 am
    The way grape contracts are written these days, it is very easy for a winery or negociant to get out of accepting the grapes, leaving the grape grower in a very difficult situation. I can't understand how Agajanian can both reject the grapes and sue the grape grower for damages. Since this was a new contract, there was no way to judge the quality going forward.
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