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Ambush Murder/Suicide Settles Napa Valley Winery Legal Dispute Out Of Court

Previously in Wine Industry Insight:


Napa Valley’s carefully cultivated image of glitz and luxury attracts the rich and famous along with the hoi polloi: $300 Cabernet Sauvignons, carpets of vineyards and glitzy auctions convey a glamorous lifestyle that can have a dark underbelly.


Silicon Valley investor Emad Tawflis learned that Monday morning when he arrived at Dahl Vineyards, just south of Yountville in Napa Valley. He was there to settle out of court a bitter lawsuit involving a vintner’s fraud and the investor’s $1.2 million — $800,000 of it in hundred-dollar bills stuffed in a red Adidas bag.

The case would be settled. Just not in the way Tawfilis counted on.

Unknown to Tawfilis, vintner Robert Dahl had brought a silenced semi-automatic .22-caliber handgun to the meeting.

After what seemed like an amicable discussion, both men called their lawyers around 11:30 a.m. and reported progress toward a settlement.

Dahl shot Tawfilis the first time just as the investor hung up the phone.

Tawfilis fled and was able to call 911 as he ran into the adjoining vineyard trying to dodge a hail of Dahl’s silenced slugs.

Wounded multiple times, Tawfilis collapsed at the edge of the road. He must have felt some relief as sheriff’s cruisers approached.

Sheriff’s deputies later reported that they saw Dahl lean over Tawfilis and execute him with a close-range shot to the head.

They gave chase as Dahl fled in his black GMC SUV, up the winding roads of the Mayacamas Mountains that separate Sonoma and Napa Valleys. Finally cornered on a dead end, Dahl turned the gun on himself.


Dahl Vineyards

Dahl’s Options Boxed in By Court

A little over a week ago, the Napa Superior Court severely boxed Dahl over his refusal to comply with court injunctions, protective orders and other mandates (Courts Closing in On Robert Dahl And His Napa Valley Wine Ventures).

This move forced Dahl to the bargaining table and resulted in a meeting Monday morning at Dahl Vineyards south-southwest of Yountville in Napa Valley.

The meeting between Dahl and Tawfilis seemed to go well, at least according to attorneys who said they received phone calls from both men around 11:30 a.m.

But at 11:49 a.m. a call came into Yountville Fire Rescue about a man who had been shot. In these instances, law enforcement also responds.

Dahl Kills Tafilis, Then Himself

The Napa Sheriff’s Department said that when they arrived, they found two men in a vineyard. One had been shot. The other fled.

When law enforcement finally caught up with the black SUV, they found the driver dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

While the sheriff’s department did not officially release the men’s identities, a source in the department and a second person on scene told Wine Industry Insight that Dahl killed Tawfilis and then committed suicide.

Dahl: Delusional And No Friend Of Reality

I first met Robert Dahl at his first wine venture — California Shiners — and saw in him a newcomer from the Midwest with ambitions of becoming a Napa Valley wine star at any cost.

Dahl could be charming, but had to control those around him to make sure that they conformed to his version of reality. Anything that conflicted with that brought microflashes of anger to his eyes.

There are plenty of Napa Valley wannabes and some of them crash and burn in spectacular ways. Some recent and very major train wrecks are still playing out: Jeff Hill Pleads Not Guilty To Grape Theft

But even Jeff Hill was never as delusional as Dahl.

When court papers from Lexington Street investments said that Dahl had a Record for fraud in Minnesota, Dahl denied it When Lexington Street filed copies of the conviction papers from the Minnesota court, Dahl denied that they were legitimate. When Lexington Street investments file certified papers that showed Dahl had a criminal record in Minnesota, Dahl continued to deny that he had been convicted and that there had to have been some mistake.

When Lexington investments filed papers charging Dahl with selling a bottling line that was collateral for Lexington’s loans, Dahl denied it happened. And when Lexington filed a copy of the bill of sale, and a declaration from the person who bought the bottling line from Dahl, he still denied that he ever had the bottling line or that he had sold it.

Court and state documents show that shortly before Dahl took Lexington Investment’s money for his Patio Wine Company LLC, Dahl canceled that LLC which meant that Patio Wine could not legally except the money.

Again, Dahl denied that he had done that. He denied it when the State Corporation cancellation papers were filed in court. He denied theywere valid papers because they were not notarized, and when the notarized papers were filed, he continued to deny that he had canceled the LLC.

This kind of delusional behavior and  denial of verifiable reality was a pattern in Dahl’s behavior, at least his behavior dealing with Lexington Investments.

Dahl’s irrational denials and his stubborn refusal to admit obvious and provable reality, caused an increasing heat and hostility in the emails exchanged between him and Emad Tawfilis.

Emails filed with the Napa Superior Court show the anger and hostility reaching a breaking point in the late summer of 2014 and continuing to grow through the rest of the year as Lexington Street Investments continued to press Dahl for repayment of its loans, and later as it tried to foreclose on it’s collateral.

Despite numerous court orders demanding that Dahl reveal the locations of Lexington’s loan collateral, such as fermentation tanks and other equipment, Dahl refused to comply. This resulted in a series of injunctions, protective orders, orders to comply, and other judicial instructions which Dahl ignored.

Napa Superior Court finally lost patience with Dahl’s delusions and trapped him in a corner last week by issuing an order to comply with the courts previous orders. Dahl responded with a ludicrous reply in which he seemed to profess ignorance of the definition of an asset.

The rest of this corner from which Dahl finally knew he could not escape, was an 18-count order for him to tell the court why he should not be sentenced for contempt.