A St. Helena vineyard manager has been charged with grand theft for allegedly stealing more than $65,000 worth of grapes from a client during last fall’s harvest.
Jeffry James Hill, the manager of Hill Wine Co. at 1001 Silverado Trail, faces two counts of grand theft and a special allegation for allegedly stealing the grapes on Oct. 16 and Oct. 21 from vineyards owned by Del Dotto Napa Valley on Mount Howell and in Oakville, according to court papers.
Judge Francisca Tisher signed a warrant for Hill’s arrest late last week.
Hill, 35, was booked into the Napa County jail Tuesday morning following his first court appearance. He did not enter a plea. He was released a few hours later on $25,000 bail. His next hearing is March 25.
The Napa County Sheriff’s Office was called to investigate the matter beginning last October. The case was then referred to the Napa County District Attorney’s Office.
Hill’s attorney, James V. Jones, on Wednesday said he has just begun to analyze the various reports from the investigation. “At this point, I’m very confident in my client’s case,” Jones said.
Del Dotto had signed a contract with Hill to manage several of its vineyards, according to court records.
In December, Del Dotto filed a lawsuit against Hill alleging the vineyard manager ordered 12 bins of grapes delivered to his winery on Oct. 17 instead of Del Dotto and Fleury Vineyards, according to court records.
The winery also sued Hill for breach of contract, alleging the vineyard manager did not maintain rootstock or perform other work, according to court records.
Hill faces multiple lawsuits from other companies as well.
On Tuesday, Zenith Insurance Co., a worker’s compensation insurance carrier, filed a civil complaint in Napa Superior Court against Hill Wine Co. over unpaid insurance premiums totaling $22,098, according to court records.
Last Friday, Domaine Chandon sued Hill Wine Co. for not paying for $344,640 worth of cabernet sauvignon grapes from last fall’s harvest, according to the complaint filed in Napa County Superior Court.
Hill Wine Co., which is not connected to Hill Family Estate of Yountville, was founded in 2008, according to the company’s website.
“Hill Wine Company only uses Napa Valley fruit that is grown sustainably or organically,” according to the website. The company sells wines under the brand name “Black Dog.”
This story has been altered since first posting.