Sheriff's deputies were sent last week to intervene in a dispute between the partners of Mendocino Wine Co. connected to the departure of co-owner Paul Dolan, who helped pioneer the spread of organic winemaking in California.
Dolan, one of the most prominent wine executives on the North Coast, claimed he was ousted as a partner of the Ukiah company he helped create in 2004 to acquire the historic Parducci Wine Cellars, according to a source familiar with Friday's incident.
Deputies were called to a location near the winery off Parducci Road in Ukiah on Friday afternoon to intercede in the dispute, said Mendocino Sheriff's Capt. Kurt Smallcomb.
"There was definitely a falling out," Smallcomb said. "There was definitely something that took place between the partners in that business."
Deputies determined the matter was a civil dispute, not criminal in nature, and told the parties to resolve it themselves, Smallcomb said.
"We're there to keep the peace," Smallcomb said.
Tim and Thomas Thornhill, partners in Mendocino Wine Co., did not return telephone messages left over two days.
Dolan also did not return telephone messages left over two days. Jan Mettler, spokeswoman for Paul Dolan Vineyards, declined to comment.
Dolan is no longer listed as a partner on the Mendocino Wine Co. website. His photograph has been removed from the company's homepage, where it was displayed prominently in a version cached by an Internet search engine last April. It was unclear Tuesday when the company made the changes.
Prior to co-founding Mendocino Wine Co., Dolan served more than a decade as president of Fetzer Vineyards, developing the nation's largest organic wine operation.
His 2003 book, "True to Our Roots: Fermenting a Business Revolution," laid out his approach to building a business that was friendly to both the environment and employees but also profitable.
A fourth-generation winemaker, Dolan led a movement to persuade the wine industry to embrace sustainable practices across farming, production and business operations. He became chairman of the industry's largest trade group, the Wine Institute, and served on President Clinton's Council on Sustainability.