California wine industry veteran Paul Dolan has filed a lawsuit against his former partners at Mendocino Wine Co. over the value of his share in the company.
Dolan filed suit in Mendocino County Superior Court March 9 after he and managing partners Tom and Tim Thornhill failed to agree on the worth of his stake in the company. While Dolan’s attorney Gregory Spaulding said his client owns about 30 percent of the partnership, the overall value of the company is in dispute.
“When the parties and attorneys sat down to talk, we were miles apart,” Spaulding said. “This suit is not about the departure. This is not a bad blood kind of lawsuit.”
The eight-year-old partnership came to a dramatic end Jan. 20 when the Thornhill family abruptly fired Dolan as president of the company, which produces the Parducci, Zig Zag Zin and Paul Dolan labels. Mendocino County sheriff’s deputies were on hand at the company’s Ukiah headquarters that day. “I don’t know why they did that, bringing the police in,” said Dolan. “But it put a particular strain on the partnership.”
Mendocino Wine Co. spokesman Michael Fineman said the Thornhills have declined comment. “It’s in litigation at this point. They certainly have their side of the story but it’s not appropriate for them to comment at this point.”
The conflict, according to Dolan, began when he approached the Thornhills about buying him out. “I realized the partnership was just not working very well,” Dolan said.
“It’s my sense that that both Paul and the Thornhills realized their visions of the future were going in very different directions," added Spaulding. Dolan and the Thornhills formed their partnership in 2004 to buy Parducci Wine Cellars, Mendocino’s oldest winery. Ironically, John Parducci was similarly locked out of the winery by his business partners in 1994.
A veteran with about 40 years in the business, Dolan got his start at Fetzer Vineyards, where he eventually worked his way to president of the company. He has been a leader in sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming. Dolan and his family retain ownership of four vineyards, which have supplied grapes to Mendocino Wine Co. and other wineries. Dolan plans to launch a new label supplied from the grapes, but the future of the Paul Dolan brand remains up in the air.
“A lot of my heart and soul was in that brand,” Dolan said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen there.”
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions