With the trial opening today, the Foppiano Winery in Healdsburg is in the spotlight as a bitter fight between siblings unfolds.
In a lawsuit Susan Valera accuses her brother, Lou Foppiano, of misusing assets, and she wants his ouster to keep him from overseeing the family trust.
Foppiano, 64, is being sued by Valera, 59, for allegedly threatening the welfare of the family trust by using it to make loans to the company, in part to cover executive bonuses.
What happens to the wine during a family feud? Do consumers decide the wine is tainted by bitterness?
Granted, a brawl is a public relation expert’s nightmare, and yet the wine will likely go unscathed by the court proceedings. That’s how wine analyst Vic Motto of Global Wine Partners, LLC in St. Helena sees it anyway.
“Most wine consumers don’t end up seeing the news stories,” he said. “They might see it in Sonoma or in Northern California … but consumers (outside the area) are rarely aware of what’s going on in the lives of winemakers.”
Motto said he’s seen quite a few family battles, and many that have never made it to print, but most consumers are simply out of the loop.
And, he said, “these conflicts rarely affect the quality of the product or the availability.”
The family controversy that no doubt snagged the most news coverage was the warring between Peter and the late Robert Mondavi . What most recall is the infamous 1965 two-punch argument when Robert hit his brother Peter after being accused of embezzling company funds to buy his wife a mink coat to wear to a White House dinner.
What will become of the Foppiano feud? We’ll see how it plays out in court.
The winery’s sales have been affected by the economic downturn, but I know the fray won’t keep me from drinking one of my favorite reds — the Foppiano, 2009 Estate Petite Sirah.
How about you? Does bitter infighting in wine families affect your palate?