The owners of a vineyard northeast of Calistoga allege they have lost their entire 2019 crop due to the negligence of a vineyard management company, according to a complaint filed in Napa County Superior Court last week.
Bellisimo A Family Vineyard, LLC filed the lawsuit against Renteria Vineyard Management, LLC on Sept. 9, alleging that a lack of supervision from Renteria resulted in an on-site employee mistakenly spraying the entire the 67-acre vineyard with Lifeline, an herbicide, instead of the designated two-acre block.
The filing states that Bellisimo has relied on the services of an on-site employee who lived on the property at 8322 Franz Valley Road even before Bellisimo purchased it in 2012. That employee has consistently worked under the supervision of the vineyard management companies Bellisimo has employed. Bellisimo hired Renteria in November of 2018, according to the suit.
The on-site employee speaks and reads only limited English, according to the court filing. The suit alleges that the employee was directed to apply the herbicide to the entire vineyard instead of the designated two-acre block.
In response to request for comment, Oscar Renteria, Renteria’s CEO, said in a written statement that Renteria had refused to pay the damages because it had not mixed or applied the pesticides used on Bellisimo’s crop.
“The grower instructed Renteria that its own employee(s) would handle that application, and Renteria had nothing to do with it,” he wrote.
Renteria wrote that his company’s legal team is currently submitting a rebuttal “to provide the true facts and sequence of events.”
According to the manufacturer’s website, Lifeline is a non-selective herbicide – meaning it will act against any vegetation it comes into contact with. It’s registered for use only on suckers growing at the base of grapevines, according to the lawsuit.
“(The employee) did not realize that Lifeline was an herbicide and assumed it was to be applied instead of sulfur,” the lawsuit reads. “Renteria provided no supervision whatsoever to (the employee’s) mixing and spraying of chemicals on the vineyard on or about June 18-20.”
The employee had twice previously applied sulfur to the entire vineyard under supervision from Renteria, according to the complaint.
The vineyard’s owners realized the damage done about four days after the spraying began, when the leaves of their grapevines began curling, according to the court filing. The entire 2019 crop was destroyed, and the damage could likely impact the next two crop years, the lawsuit says.
The suit estimates the damages, which are still being evaluated, to be “well in excess” of $1.5 million.
“In cases like this, it’s difficult at this stage to predict the exact amount of damages,” John C. McCarron, an attorney for Bellisimo, said.
You can reach Sarah Klearman at (707) 256-2213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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