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With Lawsuit Behind Him, Paul Dolan Talks About The Future

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul Dolan emailed us yesterday with the following narrative explaining his perspectives on the future now that the Mendocino Wine Company lawsuit has been settled. With his permission, the email is presented below, complete and unedited.


Hi Lew

I decided I should share a very short version of my story, as I understand the Thornhills of Parducci and Mendocino Wine Group have sent out a press release.

Since I don’t have a talented press agent on my payroll, any longer :), my comments will be coming from my family’s vineyard, Dark Horse Biodynamic Vineyards, in the mountains of Mendocino.

While I had a great run for about 8 years growing and reinvigorating a tired old brand, Parducci, and passionately creating a new brand, Paul Dolan which was grounded in my love and commitment to Biodynamics, I am now very ready to put all that behind me and continue to grow and develop my passions – winegrowing, biodynamics and regenerative agriculture.

So what do I leave behind? The Parducci business was in serious decline during the 7 years before we purchased it, 25% year over year decline. This was a fun challenge to grow, 15% compounded growth for 8 years, but even more exciting was to take on new projects in the area of sustainable business leadership which as you know has been a real driver for me. Converting vineyards to organic and Biodynamic certification, and becoming carbon neutral were the most notable. Building a great team was also extremely satisfying. Unfortunately, but not a surprise, many great people followed me out the door.

I think the most challenging separation for me is not to be able to continue to build on the opportunity of the Paul Dolan brand. I was really looking forward to transforming it from an organic to a leading biodynamic winegrowing example. My greatest hope is the new owners will recognize the opportunity to bring back the quality which we originally created. Please note that for the last 3 years I have not been involved with the Paul Dolan brand and will have nothing to do with it in the future.

In summary, the Thornhills and I started a partnership in 2004 at my invitation to them as I was pursued by the owners at that time. We grew the sales of the business from $6M to $17M with great margins and profits above industry average. We revived the Parducci brand, did some great leadership work around sustainable leadership practices, purchased a vineyard, converted others to organic, built a great sales team, enrolled a super distribution network, grew a significant export business, established the Paul Dolan brand and most importantly generated several 90 point wines.

What does a settlement mean? I received no compensation for my investment and I have given up ownership of my name on a wine brand. There is no question I contributed much of my knowledge and passion, but in the end I had to acknowledge I did not have the financial staying power for the lawsuit.

Much of the disagreement was whether I had the right to be involved in other ventures while being part of Mendocino Wine Company. Of course, it is widely known I was already engaged in several different wine ventures. Their assumption that I was not allowed to participate in other activities was contradicted by the operating agreement for our business. That agreement clearly permitted outside ventures by the owners, including me.

Due to the heavy financial drain with the legal battle, I proposed a settlement. I felt I had a great case, but not the resources to keep up with the Thornhill wealth. They accepted. I have no regrets. Onward and upward.

So here is the exciting part, the what’s next.

It has already started and is in full swing, as I have been blessed to be included in some great partnerships.

First would be our Truett Hurst Vineyards. My son Heath and I initially partnered with our great friend Phil Hurst, then expanded the partnership and eventually took the business public. Who does this anymore?

Phil Hurst has brilliantly led the company to become the leading winery in the area of creative product and packaging design and has built many great retail partnerships. This business is growing nicely and the quality is incredible, thanks to winemaker Ginny Lambrix.

Next would be the purchase and development of 2 beautiful vineyards in Ukiah. Our Gobbi Street Chardonnay property has just been put into a Mendocino conservation easement so as to “Protect it Forever” in agriculture.

Our new Lovers Lane vineyard has been such an amazing experience as the quality of the fruit is unhooked. It is an east facing bench-land piece on red vine series soils producing truly top end Cabernet. Yes, top end Cabernet in Mendocino :).

This week, my son Heath and his winemaker, Matt Duffy will be opening his new winery, RED, a newly designed and constructed custom crush winery. Yes you guessed it, they make RED wines. The winery will open just under the wire for receipt of the 2014 vintage. It’s beautiful- both the winery and the vintage!

I have been fortunate over so many years to live my passion. It actually feels like a dream.

This short interruption, I suppose, is par for the course of one’s life.

You can always look for my wines (without my name), to enjoy !!!

Wines to look for are those that have the Dark Horse Vineyard designation, Campovida Grenache, Truett Hurst GPS, Pacific Star Petite Sirah or Navarro Grenache and Syrah. You can also enjoy the great wines from Truett Hurst in Dry Creek Valley.

2 final thoughts.

Please contribute to the Red Cross. I have had the pleasure of working with the Red Cross board in Napa and the North Coast these last 3 years.

I joined because I found myself so frustrated by the increasing number of national/global disasters and I was feeling so helpless to do anything about them.

I am so proud of the quick response the Red Cross provided this last Sunday for our own Napa following the earthquake.

And finally I have been asked to join the US Demeter board , so more to come here…..

Thanks for listening