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From: lewis.perdue@wineindustryinsight.com

Subject: Did Corruption Sink Mondavi/Getty Pope Valley Project?

Date: 2009-12-09 14:48:23

To: Emailing List Subscriber
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EMAIL EDITION - VOLUME I, NUMBER 137 - December 9, 2009

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AOL Refuses Wine Opinions Ad But Runs Its Own

America Online has refused to run a text advertisement by Wine Opinions seeking participants for consumer surveys despite the fact that the AOL food section continues to run its own ads for wine sales.


According to Wine Opinions founder John Gillespie, America Online told him that it refused to accept to ad, citing a ban on alcohol advertising.


Gillespie said that he sent AOL the standard text ad copy is standard which they have used on a number of sites, including Facebook:

Win a Wine Shopping Spree
Take wine surveys and win cash
awards of $500, $300, and $200

The ads then  link to the “join” page of Wine Opinions


When Gillespie emailed AOL on Nov. 27 to ask why the ad had not run, AOL Associate Advertising Account Manager Ilene Kleinbaum responded in a Dec. 1 email: “Unfortunately, AOL’s policy has changed, and we do not allow alcohol-related content to run on our network. Please let me know if you have other ads to run, or if you would like me to refund you.”

We have over 5,000 members of the Wine Opinions consumer panel and nearly 1,000 members of the trade panel.

I was going to start a campaign on some of the online properties in the AOL network (such as Forbes online, Sunset online, etc.) when I ran across the AOL prohibition. The same prohibition is in place at Google for “site specific” ad placements (as opposed to keyword search ads, where wine advertising is permitted).


Gillespie requested the refund on Dec. 1 and sent the following in an email to AOL (reprinted here with his permission):

1. I am not a seller of alcohol. I own a research company that performs consumer surveys for wineries. As you can see by my ads, I promise cash payments to those who take surveys (not wine).

2. I am trying to run ads in places where wine lovers are found (such as the “wine” content pages of AOL).

3. If you would ask the content providers (such as Sunset Magazine) if they accept wine advertising in their print publications, they would say yes. If you would ask if they would be pleased to have wine advertising on their sites, they would say yes. You are depriving your suppliers of revenue needlessly.

4. Your failure to conscientiously discriminate between wine, beer, and spirits and between legitimate information providers versus those who entice abusive behavior is a very slippery slope – you are already halfway down.


AOL failed to respond to Wine Industry Insight’s emails asking for comment.

Did Corruption Sink Mondavi/Getty Pope Valley Project?

With one Napa County Official’s resignation over a shakedown behind them, the backers of a Pope Valley resort development have filed lawsuits against three members of the Napa County Board of Supervisors alleging improper, unethical and possibly illegal behavior over the the denial of the project’s use use permit.

A member of Napa County’s legal defense team told Wine Industry Insight that, “The County vigorously disputes Luciana’s allegations, and maintains that the County’s action was proper and lawful in all respects.”

The most recent development in this long-standing soap opera is the scheduling of a trustee sale to auction off Pope Valley’s historic Aetna Springs resort along with another 226 acres of the former Juliana Vineyards which had been slated for a golf course for other development. The sale has been set for 1:30 p.m., Dec. 23 on the steps of the Napa County courthouse.


Developers William I. Cresswell and Robert Radovan — along with other heavyweight investors  that included members of the Mondavi and Getty families — pulled the plug on the project in mid-June after the Napa County Supervisors overruled county planning staff and rejected the project’s use permit.( A list of investors and related parties appears at the end of this article.)

Developers sued in both federal and county courts, charging in court documents that the denial had come as a result of corruption and other unethical behavior by county officials a well as serious improprieties in the conduct of public meetings.

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Also In This Article:

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According to the Certification of Interested Entities of Persons filed with the U.S. District Court:

“the following listed persons, associations of persons, firms, partnerships, corporations (including parent corporations) or other entities,

(i) have a financial interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding, or

(ii) have a non-financial interest in that subject matter or in a party that could be substantially affected by the outcome of this proceeding:

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John Salisbury’s Personal Account of His Vineyards LLC Chapter 12

Editor’s note:

John Salisbury sent Wine Industry Insight the following personal account of the events leading up to the Chapter 12 Bankruptcy filing by Salisbury Vineyards, LLC.  The personal struggles will certainly resonate clearly with many others in the industry. Also, as we pointed out in our original article, this bankruptcy filing concerns the vineyard-only LLC and not the Salisbury Vineyards, Inc. winery and tasting room corporation.

The reorganization has to do with only one of the four vineyards we either own or lease. It has nothing to do with the bulk of the grape growing, wine making, wine sales, or the Schoolhouse property which are all doing well.

Salisbury Vineyards, Inc is our main business that farms two thirds of our 80 acres, makes the wine, and sells 98% of our 5,000 cases annual production out of our old Schoolhouse tasting room at retail less appropriate discounts.The last two summers we have sold out of many of our main varietals.

Thanks to this year’s great production and cutting back on spot grape sales, we have tripled our tonnage. One third of this wine has been placed on the bulk wine market with half already sold at good prices and remaining half has pending offers. We have long term contracts with four other wineries for our excess Pinot Noir (avg. $3,300/ton) and have eight other varietals that round out the rest of the production.

That leaves us with 10,000 cases that we will bottle over the next year and a half so that we will not only have sufficient supply for the tasting room but for the first time have wine to sell on the outside market.

Our Avila Valley Vineyard Partners, LLC owns the 102 year old rehabilitated Schoolhouse and the real estate it sits on. Salisbury & Rucks Family Farms, LLC does custom farming and sales of other organic crops besides grapes, mature tree relocation, and Certified Arborist services.

All three of these companies are in good shape and each are separate legal entities. Salisbury Vineyards, LLC owns the 113 acres surrounding the Bassi Ranch Estates in Avila Valley and has a small interest in the vacant property south of the Schoolhouse.

In 2000 we entered into a 32 year lease with Robin L. Rossi Living Trust, cleaned up the abandoned citrus/apple orchard and nursery, and planted 28 acres of winegrapes at a cost of over $800,000 cash because no liens could be placed on the leased property. We recently successfully drilled a 680 foot well that produces 150 gpm which is gusher in these parts which we share with the Bassi Ranch HOA.

In January of this year, we were blindsided with the knowledge that our landlord, in July of 2008, borrowed $800,000 secured by the property with very high interest all due this past January. He came to us because we had a First Right of Refusal and said his partner wanted to buy the property and plant the remaining available acreage on the ranch.

We checked out our legal position on the lease, that we were very happy with and had another 22 years to go, and found out that it could possibly be broken with the sale. Therefore, in order to protect our investment and our water rights, we reluctantly exercised our right to buy. We took over the $800,000 note, borrowed another $400,000 from the same lender, and secured the balance of $275,000 with the seller on a short term note. The Robin L. Rossi Living Trust received 80% of the sale price of $1,500,000 in a two day escrow.

We immediately started the loan process with our local Ag lender who did an appraisal which came in at $2,000,000 which was a half million dollars over the sale price. The lender said because of the equity they could loan up to 65% ($1,300,000) at around 5% on a long term mortgage with guarantees. At this time, we were changing accountants and going through an extensive audit but were finally able to get our financials to the bank.

As we were getting close to the end of the term of the Rossi note, it was evident that we would not get our funding done in time. So we had a meeting of all of the creditors and asked for a little more time. We thought we had a gentleman’s agreement to let the loan process play out; however, even though the seller had no money out of pocket, he surprisingly filed a default notice the next week which was his right. This action effectively stopped the loan process with the Ag lender and that of a commercial bank that we were using as a backup loan.

The default notice started a 90 day clock during which we hustled to find private financing which is not easy in this financial climate. However, we did find some interest but no one could come up with the money until after the first of the year because they had already committed their funds for this year.

We even tried to work with the seller, who offered to buy back the property for much less than the appraised value, and get back our lease but the terms were just not realistic. So at the last minute to buy more time, we had to file for a reorganization under a special statute for fishermen and family farmers which we qualify for because our family has been continuously farming in the State for 160 years plus all the way back to pre-revolutionary war times on east coast.

We have a realistic plan that will pay all the creditors in a relatively short period of time including the non-secured who are mostly ex-partners, friends, and family whom we have been buying out over the last several years.

In a little while, all this and our 15 minutes of fame will have all blown over but most importantly we will continue to own the land for future generations. I hope this note clears up some of the confusion.

This may be just a sign of the times with everyone doing what they have to do, but most importantly we are fine and still very optimistic about our future.

Merry Christmas,



December 09, 2009
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  • Napa Wine train stimulus project called into question
  • Grape growers say cold temperatures good news for vines
  • UK: Majestic Wine leaves Vinopolis, Laithwaites to move in
  • Constellation Price Target Raised
  • Florida billionaire battles wine fakery
  • It's wine season in South America
  • Green wine 'will win overseas buyers'
  • McDonough Named CMO At Diageo North America
  • John Bell of Willis Hall Winery: From Boeing to Marysville winery
  • December 08, 2009
  • Marin Institute Study Says Calif Family Winery is Myth
  • California's Newest Wine Tasting Center Opens to Public
  • Major ag issues take center stage
  • Champagne, Calistoga & Truth in Labeling
  • A generous display at brain injury event
  • Climate change: French wineries join Greenpeace
  • Watchdog group has no cheers for wine industry
  • Amarone promoted to DOCG
  • More terrorist attacks on Languedoc wine facilities
  • Wirtz's Next Distribution Move
  • NY: Sale will help keep grape tradition alive
  • Washington Warms to Supermarket Tastings
  • OZ: Family wineries beat corporate giants
  • Optimism on economy fading, poll shows
  • Champagne Bureau Debuts Effort to 'Unmask' Impostors
  • The Angriest Red Wine On The East Coast
  • December 07, 2009
  • Lake County workshop on clonal practices set for Tues
  • Cork oak forests coming under increasing threat
  • Fine whine: French Winery shuns Brangelina's buyout
  • NY: Too many grapes, too few places to sell wine
  • VA: ABC Offers Interim Solutions for Third Party Wine Shippers
  • UK: Race legend on track for new winery
  • TX: Advanced wine-grape grower workshop slated Dec. 4
  • NV: An oasis of wine culture near Vegas
  • Inventor's simple machine could radically change wine service
  • Oz: Wine trust trims rent hike
  • NY: Finger Lakes Wine degree gets state OK
  • Oz: Fee rises to hit small wineries
  • Yellow Tail asks the public to name new wine -- could it backfire?
  • Vintners hail Calistoga AVA
  • Tesco plans US Clubcard
  • Italy: Ferragamos Convert Crumbling Tuscan Villa Into Winery, Resort
  • A bubbly buyer's market
  • Salahis hand over designer watch to pay debt
  • December 03, 2009
  • Bad economy slows grape contracts
  • Constellation Brands Shares Fall 6.2%
  • Iowa City Bookshop turns wine bar
  • Dennis Appointed COO of Global Fine Wine & Spirits
  • Wine sales resume in 2009 after earlier dip
  • OwnIT to Facilitate Consistent Brand Information Online
  • Fine wine outperforms gold since early 90s
  • Champagne Price bubble pops
  • 'Green' wine needs clearer definition
  • Christie's makes record sale in Hong Kong
  • Vinfolio adds WinePosts to VinCellar community
  • Napa Valley merlots no longer trying to be cabernet sauvignon

  • ================= CONTACT DATA ====================
    Lewis Perdue
    670 W. Napa St., Suite H, Sonoma, CA 95476
    Phone: 707-326-4503, fax: 707-940-4146
    Email: lewis.perdue@wineindustryinsight.com