Napa vintner sued over $65k ‘grape theft’

14th March, 2014 by Lauren Eads

A Napa winery is suing  its vineyard manager for allegedly stealing $65,000 worth of grapes.

Napa Valley harvestJeffry James Hill, the manager of the Hill Wine Co. in St Helena, is facing two counts of grand theft and a special allegation for allegedly stealing the grapes on 16 October and 21 October from vineyards owned by Del Dotto Napa Valley on Mount Howell and in Oakville, according to reports by the napavalleyregister.com.

Del Dotto filed a lawsuit against Hill In December alleging the vineyard manager had 12 bins of grapes delivered to his winery on 17 October, instead of Del Dotto and Fleury Vineyards, according to court records.

Del Dotto, which had signed a contract with Hill to manage several of its vineyards, is also suing Hill for breach of contract, alleging the vineyard manager did not maintain rootstock or perform other work, according to court records.

Hill is also facing multiple lawsuits from other companies, according to the napavalleyregister.com, including a claim by Zenith Insurance Co., a worker’s compensation insurance carrier, over unpaid insurance premiums totalling $22,098.

Domaine Chandon is also suing Hill Wine Co. for allegedly not paying for $344,640 worth of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from last year’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 its website, and only sells wines made with Napa Valley fruit “grown sustainably or organically” under the brand name “Black Dog.”

It website states: “Jeff Hill specializes in sustainable, and organic farming. As the proprietor of Jeff Hill Vineyard Group, he owns and manages many high-end vineyards in Napa and Sonoma counties. Some of the top rated Robert Parker wines currently listed come from vineyards he supervises.

“Jeff and his wife Rebecca hold a strong belief in sustainability and organic agriculture. Seeing a lack of wineries in Napa providing consumers with a high quality green product at a great price, they took their love of fine wine and passion for sustainable agriculture and formed Hill Wine Company in 2008. Hill Wine Company only uses Napa Valley fruit that is grown sustainably or organically.”

The 35-year-old’s next court appearance is on 25 March.

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