Lawsuit alleges botched custom crush of grapes

Patrick Vinatieri asserts his wine was 'spoiled'
2013-12-13T18:18:00Z Lawsuit alleges botched custom crush of grapesKERANA TODOROV Napa Valley Register
December 13, 2013 6:18 pm  • 

A Napa Valley vintner is suing a family-owned winery in south Napa for $3 million, alleging the company spoiled his wine, according to court records.

Patrick Vinatieri alleged in his complaint that his wine had been “spoiled” and “contaminated” by Spelletich Family Wine Co., a custom-crush facility at Napa Valley Commons, formerly Napa Valley Corporate Park. The alleged damages exceed $375,000, Vinatieri stated in the court document.

The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in Napa County Superior Court, alleges “the wine is not salvageable.”

Kristen Spelletich, director of operations at the family-owned company, said Spelletich was served with legal papers on Wednesday. “Our legal counsel will review said cause of action and respond via the court,” she wrote in an email.

Neither Vinatieri nor his attorney, John Houston of San Francisco, could be reached for comment.

According to the suit, Vinatieri entered into a verbal agreement with the Spelletich family in 2009 to custom crush, store and maintain his wine. Under the arrangement, Vinatieri purchased the barrels and racks and paid about $7,000 to have his grapes custom crushed and $10 per barrel per month to store and maintain the wine, according to the document.

Vinatieri’s website states the winery produces 150 to 450 cases a year. In August, Vinatieri said he paid Spelletich Family Wine Co. $15,000 to remove his wine.

He received 20 barrels instead of 25 or 26 barrels, according to the court filing. The wine, the suit contends, was spoiled and contaminated and the alcohol content was 17 percent instead of 14 percent as the defendants had communicated. The wine also tested “very high” in sulfites, according to the filing.

Historically, Vinatieri said he sold his wine for $15,000 or more per barrel, according to the court document. A case management conference is scheduled for May 20.

Vinatieri, who does business as Vinatieri Vineyards LLC in the 6000 block of Solano Avenue near Yountville, filed for bankruptcy in December 2012, according to federal court documents.

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(9) Comments

  1. bjd1976
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    bjd1976 - December 13, 2013 7:00 pm
    Sounds fishy with the bankruptcy just recently........
  2. crooked6pence
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    crooked6pence - December 13, 2013 7:15 pm
    Might have declared bankruptcy over the spoiled wine and maybe had 1 year before they would have lost the right to sue. A year is almost up, so that lawsuit is probably a result of the two parties not being able to come to an agreement...
  3. glenroy
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    glenroy - December 14, 2013 6:50 am
    Smells to high heaven.....
  4. Oldtimenapan
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    Oldtimenapan - December 14, 2013 8:32 am
    I know Pat personally and he has been trying to resolve this with them but they keep stiffing him. He had no choice in the matter. The article is accurate.
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    TAXPAYER - December 14, 2013 11:13 am
    Some people just file lawsuits to make money!
  6. NapaMark15
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    NapaMark15 - December 15, 2013 9:33 am
    And some people just comment cause they have no idea what they're talking about!
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    TAXPAYER - December 15, 2013 4:17 pm
    Yes, people should have knowledge before they comment!
  8. Tim Keller
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    Tim Keller - December 16, 2013 10:07 am
    I am sure Mr Vinatieri feels he was wronged - but his expectation of what his results should be, and what he is entitled to are out of touch with reality.

    If the alcohol is 17%, then the grapes were delivered VERY over-ripe. There is NO fault you can pin on Spelletich for that. If they "claimed" 14%, I almost guarantee what Mr Vinatieri saw was the 14+ tax class reporting on an inventory - not an analysis result.

    As for sulphides? Lets get real again - Custom crushing can NEVER promise a certain level of quality, or absence of defects. In my career I have been on both side of this- as the provider of crush services to a troubled wine, and as the customer whose's wine went to vinegar in the care of the crusher. NEVER was anyone inclined to sue. Quality issues HAPPEN - that is winemaking. That is what makes winemaking an art, and not just a food processing service.

    The alcohol level says it all. 17% is a botched harvest from the start - you cant blame Spelletich for that.

  9. Tim Keller
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    Tim Keller - December 16, 2013 10:14 am
    I just calculated the claims value since that looked fishy to me also... $15,000 a barrel is $250 a gallon. Napa Cab is hot these days, but that figure is 5 to 10 times higher then the bulk market. Break it down to bottles and he is claiming a value of $50 per bottle at wholesale... Without knowing the particulars, I would say this has every indication of being one of those frivolous lawsuits that are nothing more than a abuse of our legal system.
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