Naughty Napa

Naughty Napa

     When one thinks of Napa, rarely does the FBI come into mind. Then why is the national detective agency snooping around these storied vineyards? When the feds tell you, “Please provide any and all documents relating to the following individuals, entities, and/or projects,” things don't look good. In total there are 40 individuals named in the subpoena. 

     Among the named people are billionaire, former owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Craig Hall who owns Hall wine and four other organic vineyards along with his wife Kathryn. Chuck Wagner who owns Caymus was named and says, 'I'm baffled. It's (about) the county, they shouldn't be naming individuals- unless I've done something wrong that I don't know about,' and claims innocence. His son Charlie and Mer Soleil (his vineyard) are also named in the subpoena. Alpha Omega Winery's owner Robin Baggett and Dave Phinney of Prisoner wine are included on the list as well. There are also Jayson Woodbridge of Hundred Acre, Darioush Khaledi and his winery plus the Meritage Resort and Spa. 

     Patrick Robbins filed the subpoena in the Northern District of California with a reference to Katherine Ferrato of the FBI, working white collar crimes. There was also a separate subpoena from a trail attorney in the Deptarment of Justice's Antitrust Division wanting records dealing with the Upper Valley Waste Mangement Agency. There is a third subpoena looking at the Napa County Airport. The fourth and final subpoena served the county's farm bureau who politically backs wineries. 

     The fourth subpoena aligns with the suicide of Ryan Klobas, this happened soon after the DOJ served Napa County Farm Bureau with a subpoena. Klobas was the former head of the Bureau. Ryan worked on behalf of the wineries.

     Two theories emerge as possibilities. One deals with a fellow named Alfredo Pedroza who sersves as Napa County Supervisor. Some people that were subpoenaed donated to Pedroza's policital campaign. These donations are done not only to help the official get elected but to curry favors in the future. For instance Craig and Kathryn Hall wanted to create a new 200 plus acre vineyard on their 2,300 acres called Walt Ranch in Atlas Peak's appellation.

     Pedroza voted in favor of the project. But it was uncovered that Alfredo's father in law purchased land right next the future vineyard, he bought this with a loan that Pedroza secured using his own house as collateral. Even though Pedroza denied any conflict of interest he recused himself from future votes on the Hall's new vineyard.

     The Halls changed their mind about creating a new vineyard and changed the deal to "preserve" the property through a county land trust. Their friend Pedroza stated: "I believe everyone should cooperate fully with all branches of federal and state government and I have always encouraged citizens in Napa and all Napa public authorities to do so. There is no reason to do otherwise.”

     Second of the theories has to do with waste disposal and specifically the "landill" just above Calistoga. Calistoga lies in the northern part of Napa as is home to many vineyards including Montelena Winery who won at the Judgement of Paris years ago. First, did you know there was a trash landfill in Napa?! When trash is buried, it's gonna leak into the surrounding areas. I gotta tell you that this just sounds gross and would definitely lessen my want to drink the wine or visit an area that houses trash. According to the mayor of St Helena, there have been fires of possible trash and talk of "Radioactive waste." WTF. I don't want to drink radioactive wine. And where does radioactive waste come from anyway. Hopefully not from the cabernet.

     Go to wine country for the mystery as I probably will but I may steer clear of northern Napa and just stick to Sonoma. Better yet I might start making Paso Robles my Cali wine go to. Take care and drink good wine. Not the radioactive stuff. 


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