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Judge dismisses lawsuit against Healdsburg's Ascentia

Healdsburg wine company Ascentia Wine Estates has prevailed in a nasty legal spat with its former sales and marketing company, but the war of words between the estranged partners continues.

The maker of signature Sonoma County wine brands like Geyser Peak and Gary Farrell convinced a Delaware court to throw out a suit by New York-based W.J. Deutsch & Sons.

The lawsuit filed in May claimed the wine company was insolvent and accused Ascentia CEO Jim DeBonis of fraud, claiming he made "fantastical" revenue projections for the brands.

"This case was nothing more than sour grapes by W.J. Deutsch & Sons after their contract was terminated," Jim DeBonis, CEO of Ascentia, said in a statement Friday.

The suit was noteworthy because Deutsch was not only a vendor for Ascentia, it also was and remains a major shareholder in the company.

Deutsch invested $16 million as part of the complex $209 million deal that formed Ascentia in 2008, bringing together eight wine brands from California, Washington and Idaho.

DeBonis had said from the beginning that Deutsch's allegations had no merit, calling the case "phony."

"When we removed them as our sales team, they made up a series of false allegations," DeBonis said. "We are pleased that the court has vindicated Ascentia and thrown Deutsch's case out."

The swift ruling by the Court of the Chancery of the State of Delaware shows the case had no merit, and Deutsch's various other allegations about the company are equally baseless, Ascentia spokesman Sam Singer said.

The company is not insolvent and is "doing well," he said. "Sales are trending upward and the company is very happy with its direction."


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