Napa winery sues its consultant for $1.6m

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.

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Jean-Noel Fourmeaux of Chateau Potelle in Napa is suing his wine consultant for $1.6 million for breach of contact and negligence

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.

8 Responses to “Napa winery sues its consultant for $1.6m”

  1. guillemet says:

    Difficult and strange case. It’s hard to believe that nobody rang the bell, as situations generally don’t deteriorate so dramatically. It would be interesting to know the details of the case and to propose solutions.

  2. Lenny Pepperidge says:

    Pretty clear that they were trying to amp up the VA (which Parker is notorious for likiing) in order to get a big score and the process got away from them.

  3. Steve Felten says:

    You pays your money and you takes your chances.

  4. Mauricio says:

    The question is, as a Winemaker Consultant, what is the right thing to do if you are not getting paid (on time) by the owner and also the winery is not getting paid for their services.
    We all know that many wineries all around the world don’t usually pay all their bills on time.
    You let the wine go bad?
    You finish the wine and then sue the owner for the money he owes you?

    In my opinion Mr. Malbec’s reputation is on the line here and I think he did not manage the situation correctly. If you ask me, I would of act like a professional and finish the wine and then deal with the late fees.

  5. Rick Aldine says:

    There is wayyy more to this story than what is briefly presented in print. Denis is a great Winemaker and Medlock Ames is a first class facility with competent staff. Hold your judgement of all parties until the entire affair is vetted in detail.

    • Robert says:

      I agree with Rick. There is more to this than what is printed and we shouldn’t jump to conclusions until we have all the facts.

  6. Some winemakers get the wines to the extreme, so called “extreme winemaking” read here
    http://extremewinemaking.ca/doing-wines-with-high-va/

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