Napa winery sues its consultant for $1.6m28th May, 2014 by Lucy Shaw
Chateau Potelle in the Napa Valley is suing its consultant for US$1.6m after he failed to produce a “cult” wine that met the estate owner’s standards.
According to the Napa Valley Register, court records filed at the Napa County Superior Court state that Chateau Potelle’s owner, Jean-Noel Fourmeaux, hired consultant Denis Malbec in 2012 with the aim of creating a “cult” wine that could sell for US$200 a bottle.
The wine, designed to show off Chateau Potelle’s new tasting room, was to be made from grapes from a vineyard on the Mount Veeder AVA of the Napa Valley and was due to be called “Fourmeaux” after the estate’s owner.
Though with high hopes often comes great disappointment and, rather than the “cult” wine he desired, 4,000 gallons of the wine, which had to be filtered five times, is currently being sold in the bulk market.
Fourmeaux is suing Malbec alleging breach of contract and negligence, and is also accusing the Healdsburg winery where the grapes were crushed, Medlock Ames Vintners, and two of its winemakers of negligence. Malbec denies the allegations.
“The wine is not of quality that I can use,” Fourmeaux told the Napa Valley Register, accusing Malbec of not taking “appropriate action” when the level of volatile acidity in the wine began to rise in November 2012.
The lawsuit claims that Malbec unintentionally accelerated the volatile acidity formation and then left the winery to go on a 10-day holiday, returning in January to a wine that was “irreparably compromised.”
As reported by the Napa Valley Register, Malbec and the other defendants are seeking arbitration – a less formal process used to settle a legal dispute. Fourmeaux opposes the motion. A hearing is set for this Thursday.