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Courtwatch: Pesticide Wipes Out Vineyard - Owners Blame Vineyard Contractor

Worker apparently didn't realize herbicide was for suckers at base of grape vines
by Kerana Todorov
September 12, 2019

The owners of a vineyard east of Calistoga claim they lost their entire 2019 crop due to the alleged negligence of their vineyard management contractor, according to a complaint filed this week in Napa.

Bellisimo A Family Vineyard LLC, alleges Renteria Vineyard Management LLC, caused more than $1.5 million worth of damages by neglecting to properly supervise the application of chemicals on its 67-acre property, according to the complaint filed in Napa County Superior Court.

Dale and Beth Golden own the Bellisimo property off Franz Valley Road near the Sonoma/Napa county line, according to public records. They could not be reached to comment on the lawsuit. An attorney declined to comment on the case.

Bellisimo alleges a Renteria Vineyard Management employee led a worker to apply an herbicide on the entire vineyard instead of only 2 acres, according to the complaint.

The worker sprayed the vineyard over a period of three days with a mixture that included Lifeline; the man, who only speaks and reads little English, did not realize Lifeline is an herbicide used for suckers that grow at the base of grape vines, according to the court filing.

Renteria, which had ordered the chemicals, provided no supervision, the complaint alleges.

The plaintiff started noticing the damage a few days after the application when “leaves of the grapevines began curling,” according to the court filing. Renteria was fired about a week later, according to the lawsuit.

“Bellisimo’s entire 2019 crop was destroyed and it is likely that the damage to the vineyard will impact at least the next two crop years. Some vines may need to be replaced,” according to the court filing.

Bellisimo hired Napa-based Renteria because it lacks the expertise in cultivating and managing the vineyard, according to the complaint filed with the court. The employee who applied the herbicide lives on the property and works the land at the direction of the vineyard management company hired to farm the vineyard, according to the complaint.

The employee is under “the sole control and supervision of the vineyard management company,” according to the court filing.

Bellisimo also alleges Renteria failed to obtain the necessary permits to replant a 4.3-acre vineyard block even though the company had purchased the rootstock for the replanting, according to the lawsuit.

A representative for Renteria Vineyard declined to comment on the pending litigation.

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