A St. Helena-based company has filed a lawsuit against the owner of a vineyard on Oak Knoll Avenue over a $93,700 bill, according to the complaint.

Michael J. Neal Viticultural Services Inc. alleges the owner of Violet Vineyard LLC north of Napa owes the vineyard management company about $93,700 in unpaid services for the 2011 vintage and additional work ending March 2012, according to the complaint filed July 2 in Napa County Superior Court. The plaintiff seeks payment for the alleged unpaid services, unspecified damages, court costs and attorney fees, according to the court document.

Violet Vineyards, which supplied Merryvale Vineyard/Starmont Winery with its grapes during the 2011 season, includes 18 planted acres at 1300 Oak Knoll Ave., according to the filing.

In 2011, Michael J. Neal agreed to provide vineyard management services for $125,500, according to court records. Violet Vineyards is owned by Silver Family Holdings, which has a representative in Redwood City, according to Napa County.

Merryvale Vineyard/Starmont Winery recommended Michael J. Neal Viticultural Services after Violet Vineyards’ managing partner Roger Barnett terminated a previous vineyard manager, according to court documents.

“When the conversations between (Michael J. Neal) and Barnett commenced, it was hoped the envisioned relationship would result in a return to health and productivity for the vineyard, which was at that time suffering from issues pertaining to vine maintenance, irrigation irregularities, chemical imbalance in the soil, and a large pest problem in the form of gophers and voles,” according to the complaint.

A harvest of 90 tons was expected in 2011, the complaint stated.

At the direction of Merryvale’s winemaker, Michael J. Neal performed a number of additional tasks, including pesticide and fungicide applications and extra pruning and fruit maintenance, according to the court filing.

The total bill for 2011 exceeded the $125,500 budget by more than $79,220, according to the complaint. Michael J. Neal Services continued to work for Violet through March 2012, for an additional $14,483, for a total amount due of about $93,700, according to the court filing.

Violet Vineyards stopped paying its invoices after September 2011, Michael J. Neal alleged in its complaint. “With the crucial part of the growing season quickly approaching and its reputation in the vineyard management community on the line, (Michael J. Neal) refused to simply cease work and abandon the vineyard due to lack of payment” before the company received any notice of termination, according to the filing.

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Thanks to Michael J. Neal’s services, Violet Vineyards was brought back to health, according to the court document. Violet produced more than 114 tons in 2011 — exceeding the yield estimate by 24 tons worth $84,000, according to the court filing.

Michael J. Neal’s allegations against Violet Vineyards include breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, according to the filing.

Representatives for both Violet Vineyards, Michael J. Neal Viticultural Services and Merryvale could not be reached for comment for this story.

A hearing has been scheduled in Napa County Superior Court for Dec. 10.


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