During my visit to Napa in June 2014, I had a reservation for a tasting at the highly esteemed Shafer Vineyards. I decided to taste here because it came highly recommended by friends as well as numerous online communities that I frequent. This post summed up my thoughts on the whole experience quite well:
Before arriving in Napa, I was worried about the attitude that wineries might have towards me for a number of reasons. First, I had no experience with California wine. This was specifically why I wanted to travel to the Napa Valley. I figured it would give me a good exposure to what California wine has to offer. Second, I am quite young for a wine enthusiast. The wineries that I decided to visit were on the expensive side which made me think that the winery hosts might not take me seriously. Finally, I was alone. My wife and I drove to Napa with our dog. Since dogs are often not allowed in or around tasting rooms, my wife had to stay out of a large number of tasting rooms and so I was left tasting alone. Despite these fears, I was pleasantly surprised that most of the wineries were very pleasant, professional, and accommodating. The only winery where I felt uncomfortable was Shafer Vineyards. Their whole tasting experience should, in my opinion, be revised. The first problem was that, since I was alone, I was squeezed in with a group of their club members. As such, everyone knew everything about the winery except for me. However, nothing was done to make sure that my experience was pleasant. My questions were, in general, either disregarded or ridiculed. Then, as the post I linked above mentioned, there was an atmosphere that was very snobby. They emphasized that their wines were extremely limited in their availability. As such, we should be honored that they would allow us to taste their wines in their tasting room. Anyways, all of this to say that I was extremely disappointed about the experience and the way that I was treated (enough so that I vowed to my wife that I would never buy their wine for as long as I live).
The reason that I brought this up was because of the lawsuit that Shafer has recently filed against Angwin (which did not surprise me). Although I am not in the shoes of Shafer, it seems to me, from what I have read, that the lawsuit is more of a way for Shafer to "bully" smaller wineries. It seems as though the matter could have quite simply been resolved outside of the courts. Instead, Shafer has opted to sue a smaller producer and has asked that they be paid "triple the damages [...] plus interest, attorney fees, and other costs." All of this, to me, seems like a ploy to make money. Do not get me wrong, I understand that Angwin is not allowed to use the term "Hillside select" on their label. However, I am sure that there must be an easier path for both parties involved than the one chosen by Shafer.