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Wine deal fizzles amid California North Coast dispute over smoky grapes

A legal dispute between a Lake County winery and Sonoma County-based grape grower Hugh Reimers over grapes that were alleged to be smoke damaged took a twist in court Tuesday morning with a lawyer saying one buyer of wine made from the grapes had dropped out of the deal.

Reimers’ attorney, Kevin Block of Napa’s Block and Block LLP, told Lake County Superior Court Judge Michael Lunas at a virtual hearing that one of the two buyers said to have been lined up to buy just over half the 45,000 gallons of Reimers’ wine stored at Langtry backed out of the deal.

At a virtual hearing May 20, Block said Novato-based WX Brands and Clarksburg-based Bogle Vineyards were set to buy 10,800 and 11,100 gallons, respectively.

Middletown’s Langtry Farms LLC on May 3 sued Reimers and Torick Farms LLC, one of his grape growing companies, alleging damage to tanks and barrels from supposedly smoke-tainted grapes. Reimers countersued on May 19, claiming the grapes were OK when accepted and that bulk wine made from the fruit is being improperly held back.

“One of those buyers, WX Brands, received a call from Mr. Devore on May 18 and has since canceled or walked away from its contract with Torick Farms,” Block told the judge Tuesday, referring to Langtry Farms LLC attorney Joshua Devore of Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty and Torick Farms LLC, one of Reimers’ grape growing companies.

Block said Bogle was still moving forward with its $240,000 bulk-wine purchase and planned to have it picked up this week.

Lunas on May 20 orally approved a temporary restraining order sought by Reimers and Torick Farms to allow stored wine to be sold, ordering that the proceeds be held in a jointly held trust account until the dispute is resolved.

Near the end of the 19-minute hearing, Block asked the judge to add to the order that Devore not contact any other potential buyers of the wine. Devore told the judge that WX Brands also is one of his clients. Lunas denied Block’s request and said the order would be finalized in written form this week.

A court date for the two parties to argue further evidence to back their claims and counterclaims is set for June 15 at 9 a.m.

Reimers was a top executive of Constellation Wines US, Jackson Family Winery then Foley Family Wines from 2002 though late 2019. He then went into wine grape growing.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Before the Business Journal, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. He has a degree from Walla Walla University. Reach him at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4256.

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