A winery is suing its vineyard manager for allegedly transporting grapes to the manager’s own winery on the Silverado Trail instead of the plaintiff’s ranch, according to a complaint filed in Napa County Superior Court.
In a lawsuit filed Dec. 23 in Napa County Superior Court, Del Dotto Vineyards alleges vineyard manager Hill Wine Company LLC ordered employees on Oct. 17 to deliver 12 bins of grapes — about 6 tons — to Hill’s winery instead of Del Dotto and Fleury Vineyards.
According to the suit, the grapes were delivered from Howell Mountain vineyards, and the grapes allegedly belonged to Del Dotto and Fleury, a business partner. Hill Wine Company, owned by Jeff Hill, is not affiliated with Hill Family Estate of Yountville.
Napa Valley Capital Partners LLC, the business entity that includes Fleury and Del Dotto, makes the same allegations in a separate lawsuit, also filed on Dec. 23 in Napa County Superior Court. To date, plaintiffs Del Dotto and Fleury Vineyards have been unable to prepare the grapes for winemaking, the lawsuit alleges.
“These grapes belonged to Plaintiff and to Plaintiffs’ business partners, Napa Valley Capital Partners LLC and Fleury Vineyards, LLC. Defendants took possession of these grapes wrongfully and without Plaintiffs’ consent,” according to the complaint filed by Del Dotto Vineyards.
Del Dotto, which signed a contract with Hill in 2012 to farm and manage several of its vineyards, in September paid Hill Wine Company nearly $42,0000 in September to maintain rootstock and perform other work at another vineyard, work that allegedly was not provided, according to the lawsuit. Del Dotto is suing Hill Wine Company for breach of contract. Subsequently, the plaintiff asked for the money back, but no payment has been made, the complaint alleges.
Bruce Miroglio, a St. Helena attorney who represents Jeff Hill, on Friday strongly denied the allegations, calling them “meritless.” The lawsuit is “merely a ploy to deflect from Del Dotto’s own failures to pay” his client.
“At no time has Jeff Hill taken into possession any property of Del Dotto,” Miroglio wrote in an email, noting that Hill has worked for Del Dotto for six years. He has “seen, up close, the business system and strategy that Del Dotto uses in connection with obligations.”
“The debt which is alleged is greatly exceeded by the amount Del Dotto owes and which Del Dotto is refusing to pay, based upon these false allegations,” Miroglio wrote. “Jeff has provided every pick tag sheet and all documentation to conclusively establish that all grapes picked were delivered to Del Dotto and no grapes were kept or delivered elsewhere from any of Del Dotto’s vineyards,” said Miroglio, referring to the Oct. 17 allegation.
“It is hoped that these parties can rationally resolve these matters in a business-like fashion. The contract calls for any disputes to be mediated and Mr. Hill looks forward to a resolution in that regard,” Miroglio said, referring to the agreement signed in 2012.
A case management conference on the two lawsuits is set for June 3 in Napa County Superior Court.
Hill has been involved in other recent civil lawsuits, but all these have been resolved, according to Miroglio.