3 Wineries Launch Website, Lawsuit to Expose Napa County Overreach

Hoopes Vineyards, Summit Lake Vineyards and Smith-Madrone Winery are suing Napa County over what they say are unconstitutional patterns and practices and have now launched http://saveoursmallwineries.org/.

The new website is the home for all of the legal documents in the case, news coverage, a link to the County’s winery database and more.

The three wineries encourage the public to speak up for accountability. To that end, the website includes contact information for elected and appointed officials—Napa County Supervisors, Napa County Planning Department, Congressman Mike Thompson, State Senator Bill Dodd and California Attorney General Rob Bonta.

“We are small wineries that have been operating for more than forty years. The government has gone completely rogue and is attacking lawfully operating small businesses in an illegal effort to seize property rights that we’ve possessed for decades,” explains Lindsay Hoopes, proprietor of Hoopes Vineyards, a law professor and former prosecutor.

 “I’m a former prosecutor and this is the most egregious government overreach and abuse of discretion I have ever seen,” Ms. Hoopes added. “The laws are ‘know it when you see it, and make them up as you go.’ If you do not agree, or ask questions, the County just sues without a hearing or reasonable opportunity to dispute the claims. It is impossible to operate a business when the goalposts keep moving. This is an enormous problem, but everyone is too afraid to come forward. It has to stop, and I’m grateful to these other small wineries for having the courage to stand with me.”

“Napa County has long attempted to assert jurisdiction over small wineries even when it’s preempted by state law,” said Stu Smith, Founder and General Partner at Smith-Madrone Vineyards. “Fifty years ago the County tried to regulate activity at my vineyard operation that was governed by state law and the California Supreme Court ruled against them. We joined this lawsuit because it’s a half-century later and the County still hasn't learned its lesson.”

“We’re joining this lawsuit because we have hit a dead end and have no other viable options,” said Heather Griffin, a Partner at Summit Lake Vineyards. “We just want to do what we’ve been doing for forty years, which is allow customers to drink our wine in the environment in which it was made. Tastings are allowed at wineries across the Valley and yet the County is trying to stop this activity at long standing smaller operations like Summit Lake. They are putting an undue burden on the small family owned and operated wineries that the Napa Valley was built on, and it's killing us off one by one."

“This is about accountability as well as ethical business practices,” says Lindsay Hoopes. “The County should be as concerned about property rights as they are about regulating those rights away for the benefit of large corporate wineries,” she notes.

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