Caymus Vineyards is suing a concrete company for more than $200,000, alleging the company did “shoddy work” on the foundations of 20 of the winery’s custom-made fermentation tanks.
The Rutherford winery, which uses large, custom-made stainless steel tanks for fermentation and aging, hired the concrete company, Throop Lightweight Fill, Inc., to reinforce the areas below the tanks that support the most weight, according to the lawsuit filed in Napa County Superior Court on June 19.
In the suit, Caymus alleges that Throop didn’t do the job as promised, forcing the winery to do the work all over again with another company.
Representatives with Throop weren’t available for a comment. But, Scott Taylor, who was working for the company at the time, told the Register last week that the situation was an “unfortunate event.”
Caymus Vineyards’ attorney Jeffrey Knowles of Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP in San Francisco declined to comment on the case.
“This volume of wine exerts a strong downward force on the tank floor,” reads the suit. “To prevent the floor from buckling, deforming or collapsing entirely, structural material needs to be installed underneath the floor, inside the skirt, to support the weight of the wine.”
Twelve tanks hold 6,500 gallons of wine and eight hold 52,000 gallons, according to the suit.
Following the recommendation of its custom tank fabricator and an independent engineering firm, Caymus decided to use cellular concrete – a relatively lightweight cement compound – to fill the space inside the skirt, below the tank floor.
After coming up with some specifications for the work, Caymus hired Throop to install the cellular concrete, according to the suit. Work began in January, but, the suit alleges, the whole thing was a “debacle.”
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On the second day of pouring, work stopped due to Throop’s dry cement pump intermittently breaking down and because cellular concrete mix was leaking out of a seal prepared by Throop, the suit alleges. The concrete company returned to the site several times before completing work on Jan. 29.
The suit alleges that Throop never tested the quality and strength of the cellular concrete during installation, as Caymus says it was supposed to.
So, seeing that the mix had “numerous voids in the material that compromised its ability to support the tank floors,” Caymus inspected the tanks and found that the strength of the material in each tank varied, according to the suit. Caymus concluded that Throop used lower-grade cellular concrete than Caymus’ specifications called for and deemed the concrete “wholly unsuitable for its intended purpose.”
According to the lawsuit, Caymus’ director of operations emailed the specifications to Taylor in December – before the work ever started, but, in January, Taylor allegedly said he never received the email.
To be able to use its tanks again, Caymus alleges that it had to demolish and remove the cellular concrete from each of the 20 tanks. The total cost of remediation was $278,575, according to the suit.
Caymus also had to truck bulk wine to and from its Cordelia location, where the tanks were located, while the tanks were unavailable for use.
In March, Caymus requested that Throop reimburse it for costs associated with repairs. But, the suit alleges, Throop refused and emailed them two invoices totaling $40,279.94.
A case management conference is scheduled for Nov. 27.