Napa Valley winery sues over $1M in smoke-tainted grapes

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A Napa Valley vintner has sued its insurer for failing to pay compensation for $1.14 million worth of wine grapes tainted by smoke during the 2017 wildfires in that region.

Levensohn Vineyards LLC, of St. Helena, filed suit May 14 In U.S. District Court, Northern California division, against Nationwide Agribusiness Insurance Co. of Des Moines, Iowa.

According to the suit, Levensohn was insured during the October 2017 period during which the winery suffered a “covered loss, namely damage to grapes used in winemaking as a result of ‘smoke taint’ from fires in Napa County and the surrounding areas.”

In its complaint, the winery, owned by Pascal and Melanie Levensohn, says Nationwide breached the conditions of the insurance policy by rejecting the claim on or about April 22, 2019, and refusing to pay damages for the losses.

Representatives of the insurance company said they could not comment on the lawsuit because they had not seen a copy of it yet.

The winery owners did not respond to a request for details about the extent of their losses, and their longtime attorney, Gregory A. Blue of Lachtman Cohen in New York City, said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation.

According to the Levensohn website, the couple acquired and replanted a 3.5-acre St. Helena vineyard in the year 2000 and produced their first vintage in 2004. Today, the winery’s limited production of cabernet sauvignon is made by winemaker Benoit Touquette of Napa Valley’s Realm Cellars.

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