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Thursday, August 28, 2014
August 28, 2014 | 10:29 AM
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
by Cyril Penn | August 27, 2014 | 7:00 PM

It’s not a he-said-she-said situation,” Thornhill said. “I haven’t said anything to you that I can’t show you on a contract or a document, or on the operating agreement or in an email.”

--Tom Thornhill

Tom Thornhill III, CEO, and owner of Mendocino Wine Company, contacted me late today about my post on Mendocino Wine Company settling its litigation with Paul Dolan. The post was based on a conversation with Dolan, one of the leading figures in the California wine industry.

Thornhill said I wrote a one-sided piece.

Dolan filed suit over the value of his stake in the Mendocino Wine Company in March 2012 before the company filed a cross-complaint.

Thornhill asked rhetorically why Dolan received no compensation and walked away from the Paul Dolan brand if he had such a great case before getting into some details, adding, “We agreed to drop our case against him for breach of fiduciary duty and fraud.”

Then he addressed some of the details in the post:

It inaccurately reported that Dolan “left the company four years ago” while Thornhill pointed out: Dolan “was terminated for cause on January 20, 2012.”

It said Dolan entered into a partnership with MWC in 2004, though Thornhill clarified details: Dolan was an employee of an LLC and owned units, initially a 10 percent stake, later 30 percent when some capital retired. He said the company tendered units as required after the termination and that Dolan didn’t like the valuation.

Thornhill recounted how Dolan’s termination arose:

“We discovered Paul was sending by email, our financials, cost structure and marketing plans to his other business associates who we did not know he was actively involved with. He was out buying fruit for Truett Hurst, when he should have been buying fruit for us. He was working on designs for Truett Hurst. He had meetings with Safeway and Whole Foods for Truett Hurst when he was supposed to be president of Mendocino Wine Group. That is a gross breach of fiduciary duty.”

Thornhill took issue with a sentence in my post that read, “Dolan, a 40-year veteran, said it was well known that he was involved in other businesses,” calling it half true, because two businesses Dolan had been involved in were carved out in his employment contract: Sauvignon Republic, which later dissolved, and Premium Wine Storage, managed by Heath Dolan, Paul’s son.

“He went off and did Truett Hurst without telling us and never disclosed it until it showed up in 2011 in a Press Democrat report,” Thornhill said. “Then he lied to us and told us he was a passive investor – that he wasn’t really involved, that it was Heath’s company.”

Thornhill said during the holiday season of 2011-2012, the company accidentally discovered Dolan was emailing financial reports, marketing and sales numbers and inventory to other partners in Truett Hurst and to others. He said the company later determined Dolan was buying fruit for Truett Hurst, introducing them to customers, meeting with customers and was offering to meet with customers to sell their product.

“That’s the cause. That’s not a question,” Thornhill said. “He never fought that issue. He never contested the termination.

Another issue: My post mentions vineyards, including Lover’s Lane. Thornhill said that when the vineyard was offered for sale, Dolan as president advised against MWC buying it but at the same time pursued it privately for his son and brother, and that they bought it.

“We never would have gotten into any of this if he hadn’t sued us,” Thornhill said. “We never would have done discovery to go back through his email. It never would have happened. We didn’t know about most of this until he sued us and we had to go figure out what was really going on.”

“We have 90,000 documents and emails of what he was doing back to 2005 and 2006,” Thornhill said. This was not a joke, and it was not a small deal. We agreed to settle this, because, I agree, it was time to move on.”

“I think what happened was he really began to realize his liability for breach of fiduciary duty and fraud, which were real, were something he didn’t want to face,” Thornhill continued. “He offered to us he would walk away from all his units and quit fighting about the brand name if we would drop our counter claims against him, which we agreed to do. But we didn’t pick this fight.”

“It’s not a he-said-she-said situation,” Thornhill said. “I haven’t said anything to you that I can’t show you on a contract or a document, or on the operating agreement or in an email.”


by Cyril Penn | August 27, 2014 | 2:00 PM
“I had a great case but not the resources to keep up with the Thornhill's wealth. They accepted. I have no regrets. Onward and upward.”

-- Paul Dolan

Paul Dolan says he had a great run for about eight years growing and reinvigorating Parducci while creating a new brand, Paul Dolan. Now he’s ready to put that behind him while pursuing his passion for winegrowing, Biodynamics and regenerative agriculture. The main thing he wants people to know is that he hasn’t been affiliated with the Paul Dolan brand for three years and won’t be in the future.

Mendocino Wine Company announced yesterday that it settled its legal matters with its former president, saying Dolan will receive no financial compensation and that it will continue to own the Paul Dolan brand. Paul Dolan left the company four years ago (note, correction, two years ago).

“Most challenging for me is not to be able to continue to build on the opportunity of the Paul Dolan brand,” Paul Dolan told “I was really looking forward to transforming it from an organic to a leading biodynamic winegrowing example. My greatest hope is the new owners will recognize the opportunity to bring back the quality which we originally created.”

"My greatest hope is the new owners will recognize the opportunity to bring back the quality which we originally created.”

-- Paul Dolan


Dolan said he proposed the settlement because ongoing litigation was a heavy financial drain and he couldn’t match the financial resources of the company’s owners, who prolonged it. “All I was doing was trying to get a fair shake on what the valuation of the business was and they were not willing to acknowledge any of the experience or knowledge I put in,” Dolan said. “I had a great case but not the resources to keep up with the Thornhill's wealth. They accepted. I have no regrets. Onward and upward.”

Dolan, a 40-year veteran of the wine business, entered into a partnership with the Thornhill family in 2004 at Dolan’s invitation when Parducci’s owner put the winery up for sale. Under Dolan’s leadership, the company revived the Parducci brand as sales grew. A disagreement with the Thornhills involved whether Dolan had the right to be involved in other ventures while being part of Mendocino Wine Company. Dolan says it was well known that he was already engaged in several different ventures when he started with MWG and that the wording of an agreement with the company clearly allowed it.

Dolan began his winemaking career at Fetzer Vineyards, where he worked his way to president. He is a leader in sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming, is a past president of the California Wine Institute, was a co-founder of WineVision, and wrote a book, “True to Our Roots: Fermenting a Business Revolution.” Dolan and his family retain ownership in three vineyards that have supplied grapes to Mendocino Wine Company, and others. He is also on the board of Truett Hurst Vineyards, which recently expanded, going public.

Dolan’s 50-acre Gobbi Street Vineyard, which sells Chardonnay grapes to such wineries as Ferrari-Carano, Jackson Family Wines, and Truett Hurst, was recently protected under an easement with the Mendocino Land Trust. His Dark Horse Vineyard, which has been farmed organically and biodynamic for some time, previously supported Paul Dolan Wines. His most recent vineyard investment is with the Lovers Lane Vineyard in Ukiah, which he says makes truly top Cabernet (“Yes, top-end Cabernet in Mendocino.”)

Among other things, Dolan is joining the board of Demeter, which provides a certification process for biodynamic farming.

Meanwhile, Paul Dolan’s son Heath Dolan and winemaker Matt Duffy are opening a new winery this week, RED, a newly designed and constructed custom crush winery, focused exclusively on red wines - just in time for the 2014 vintage.

“You can always look for my wines without my name, to enjoy” Dolan said. “Wines to look for are those that have the Dark Horse Vineyard designation: Campovida Grenache, Truett Hurst GPS, Pacific Star Petite Sirah or Navarro Grenache and Syrah. You can also enjoy the great wines from Truett Hurst in Dry Creek Valley.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014
August 26, 2014 | 4:09 PM

Across this newdesk today is an earthquake update from the Napa Valley Grapegrowers:

The County of Napa has prepared a brief survey to gather information related to the earthquake damages that you may have sustained. The information will be important to estimate the countywide impacts, and to potentially seek out additional resources and assistance that may be available.

Please submit responses by close of business on Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Your responses is key to the county's recovery efforts. Please share this information with other wine industry partners that may not have received this message.

Click here to take the survey

Note: To avoid duplication of results, each business only needs to complete this survey one time. Also, this inquiry will not take the place of an actual claim for losses, it is only to estimate losses at this point.

If you have buildings or structures that need to be inspected in the unincorporated areas of the County, please contact (707) 253-4417, Napa County Emergency Operations Center, Public Information Team, on behalf of Larry Florin, Director of Housing and Intergovernmental Affairs.

For ongoing updates and resources, you can refer to the City of Napa homepage at

August 26, 2014 | 1:57 PM

Everyone who drives on Highway 121 regularly knows that Cline Cellars changes the marquee outside their winery often with some kind of clever message. Here is today's message, brought to you by the #napaquake:


Monday, August 25, 2014
August 25, 2014 | 3:39 PM

From Bourassa Vineyards:

Hello to all our friends,

I wanted to assure everyone in our reach that Dana, Rob, Tom and Gary as well as myself are all ok in Napa after a strong earthquake here at 3:20 Am on Sunday. Rob and Dana had home damage with losses in everyday comforts like power, dishes, glass ware and art work. The winery sustained a loss of about 3 cases of wine from the tasting room in 2 places, I can tell you that at 4:00 am cleaning a floor with chocolate port wine sauce mixed with red wine and broken glass is not a pretty picture. Thank God no one on our team was injured here. I have received calls from all over the country and even one from Dubai, bad news travel fast, the good news is all is good.

The news is showing all the worst cases of damage and yes there where injuries and loss of homes and partial loss of some buildings in the downtown area, but I can tell you that 99% of all the businesses in this valley are open and ready for our guests. We love this valley and the industry we work in, Napa is still one of the prettiest places on earth, come visit and let’s tell stories over a glass of wine.


From Elyse Winery:

Thanks to all of you for checking in...

Many thanks to all of you who have checked in on us following the earthquake. Fortunately we at Elyse Winery suffered relatively little damage. We are busy cleaning up broken barrels and spilled wine, and are restacking cases in the tasting room. At the same time we are washing off our crusher/de-stemmer and are getting ready for Harvest 2014! Grapes arrive tomorrow!

Many wineries in the valley experienced devastating losses and our hearts go out to them. We are a strong community and together we will get through this disaster.

Best regards,
Nancy and Ray

August 25, 2014 | 3:37 PM

While damage and loss estimates may be slow to reach the surface, it seems that there will not be a signifcant loss of inventory of Napa Valley wine. according to the most recent update from the Napa Valley Vintners, though there are some wineries who saw (as reported through Twitter by winemakers and owners) as much as a 50 percent loss of inventory.

There is some good news: There have been no employee injuries reported.

Alison Crowe of Garnet Vineyards reports:  "From all reports, however, damage is hit-or-miss. Thankfully, there was nobody out and about downtown and even more importantly, nobody working in the tight barrel stacks when it all came crashing down. For every winemaker I’ve heard from with barrels on their sides there are five that are reporting little to no damage." (from The Girl and the Grape)

The California State Board of Equalization announced that business owners and feepaers that were impacted by the quake can "request an extension to file returns, relief from penalties and/or interest for some taxes and fees, or to replace copies of records lost or damaged." To apply for a relief request, visit the BOE website at

For those offering or needing help, here is a list of resources: 

  • The City of Napa has a list of resources, including status reports, how to respond to a red or yellow flag and more here.
  • Napa Valley Vinters is releasing updates at and included a list of community resources such as shelters, water stations, medical help and more.
  • Community members banded together to create a Facebook page where residents can list items needed and find help.
  • The Meritage Resort and Spa is offering discounted rates for displaced locals and tourists.
  • Roaming Gnome is offering 250 and 330 gallon totes at no charge to Napa wineries. Contact James Bateman at 707-200-7838.
  • Barrel Builders is offering a handy barrel-lifting tool for vintners struggling to right upended stacks. Contact Phil Burton at or call 707-953-9516.


August 25, 2014 | 11:20 AM

Below is a roundup of photos of the damage caused by the 6.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Northern California on Sunday morning, Aug. 24. The epicenter was about 9 miles south of Napa and many wineries in both Napa and Sonoma were affected. The damage is still being assessed. If wineries in Napa are looking for assistance, Don Parker from Lodi Vines Wine Fulfillment is offering case goods storage. Call 209-339-9212. In addition, Parker posted on Facebook:

Could everyone let any of the wineries that are in need! Roaming gnome is offering 250 and 330 gallon totes at no charge to Napa wineries! James Bateman, Cell: 707-200-7838

Click here for the full list of the City of Napa's resources.

Click here for resources from the Napa Valley Vintners.

(Don Parker, Lodi Vines Wine Fulfillment)

Pretty severe tank damage & significant amount of #wine loss, but we're feeling fortunate everyone is safe #napaquake (Twitter/@SebastianiWines)

Red wine sprays out of a tank at Sebastiani Winery in Sonoma, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014. Fourteen of the winerie's tanks were damaged from the earthquake, causing loss of wines of all varieties. (Crista Jeremiason/The Press Democrat)

Damage the Napa #quake caused at Bouchaine, the winery closest to epicenter. Barrels cracked, spilled wine, $$$ lost. (Twitter/@JuanCarlosABC7)


Etude Winery (Twitter/@canterburywine)


Van’s Liquors (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Bouchaine Vineyards (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

B.R. Cohn Winery (Eric Risberg, AP)


Friday, August 22, 2014
August 22, 2014 | 12:05 PM

Monica and David Stevens, proprietors of 750 Wines in St. Helena are fulfilling a life-long dream of providing a forever home sanctuary and rescue and ranch for at-risk animals. In addition to saving animals’ lives, their hope is for JRR to also become a communications network and hub of the wheel for animal rescue throughout all of Northern California.

As they take-on this enormous endeavor, they are looking to raise friends, raise funds and raise awareness to help support their mission. JRR’s official kick-off event, Wineapalooza (dinner, wine tasting and live auction extravaganza) will be held on Saturday, September 20th at Gamble Family Vineyards.

Because of the longstanding relationships Monica and David have developed, attendees of Wineapalooza will have the rare opportunity to sample more than 40 of the finest wines the Napa Valley has to offer. Selections will include rarely poured brands such as Tusk, Realm and Herb Lamb.

For more see the website or Facebook page 


Wednesday, August 20, 2014
August 20, 2014 | 4:26 PM

On July 31, Drakes Bay Oyster Company was forced to close by the National Parks Services and Department of the Interior. The last oyster cannery in California, Drakes is now only able to continue harvesting oysters for sale in the wholesale market. The shuckers and packers, some that had been with the company for 30 years, lost their jobs when the shucking and packing builkding was lifted from the ground and put onto a trailer for removal.

To help raise money for the family of Drakes Bay Oyster Company, Stag Dining alongside Fine & Rare and the Carneros Wine Alliance, are hosting a benefit event at FISH in Sausalito.

'Shuck for Shelter’ A Benefit for the Workers of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company

WHEN:Sunday, August 24, 2 to 5 p.m.

WHERE: FISH Restaurant
              350 Harbor Drive, Sausalito, CA 94965

COST & DETAILS: $75* per person
                              21 and over
                              Price includes food and beverages.
                              This event is a cocktail style party.
* A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the workers of Drakes Bay Oyster Company. Additional raffle items and rare wines will be auctioned off as well.


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