Skip to main content

Vineyard and Wine Law

Vineyard and Wine Law

We’re a born and bred California law firm with more than 60 years of experience representing clients in some of the world’s best-known grape-growing regions. Our deep experience in the complex issues faced by clients in the wine industry comes from our local roots and the strong connections we’ve built with prominent winemakers and vineyard owners, their communities, and key local and state government officials. Today, our wine practice extends to the entire West Coast. 

This wine industry is unlike any other. We understand the distinct challenges that come with operating wineries, from family owned boutique operations to multimillion-dollar ones, we know and understand every stage of the winemaking process. We can assist in land use issues, including guiding clients through the entitlement process, handling water rights matters, the protection of a winery's trademarks, as well as the sale of a winery or your vineyard property.


Real estate

Our lawyers have decades of experience in buying and selling wineries, vineyards and orchards. We also handle the complex financing and development of vineyards and wineries, including title and wastewater issues, as well as leasing and subleasing. Our experience includes:

•    Representation of a national brand winery in the sale and leaseback of a St. Helena winery and vineyard, followed by a series of 1031 like-kind exchanges acquiring other Northern California vineyard properties
•    Representation of one of the largest vineyard owners in California in the phased acquisition and development of 1,500+ acres of vineyards in Monterey, California, including development of separate well parcels and related easements on the Salinas River
•    Representation of national institutional lenders in the origination, servicing, workouts, and enforcement of agricultural loans in California, including vineyards, wineries, and orchards
•    Representation of a national brand winery in the acquisition of vineyard and winery properties in California, Oregon, and Washington
•    Representation of a national brand winery in the negotiation and documentation of a revolving line of credit and real estate-secured, long-term debt aggregating over $500 million
•    Sale and leaseback of a boutique winery in Monterey, California
•    Representation of a national brand winery in a 600 acre vineyard development sublease in Napa, California


Operating a vineyard involves a host of environmental issues. After working with clients and technical consultants to assess and improve compliance with environmental laws and regulations, we’ve understand that regulatory compliance depends on effective communication and training at all levels of an organization. This is not an easy feat for companies operating in heavily regulated jurisdictions like California. That’s why, when conducting assessments and audits, we produce user-friendly products rather than long legal documents. Our experience working with agricultural and manufacturing companies includes matters related to:

• Water pollution control
• Air quality
• Pesticide use and disposal
• Hazardous materials and waste management
• Worker protection
• Stormwater management
• Carbon footprint analysis
• ESG analysis

Land Use

Our land use attorneys develop efficient, politically strategic permitting strategies for the approval of wineries and vineyards throughout California. Our experience includes:

•    Representation of applicants seeking land use entitlements for new wineries and vineyards, and expansion of existing wineries and vineyards, in Sonoma and Napa Counties and their incorporated towns and  cities
•    Representation of Napa County in evaluating legality of various land use initiatives placed on the local ballot, including an oak woodland initiative and its impact on agricultural operations
•    Navigating issues related to Williamson Act contracts

Water law

Ground and surface water rights and water quality are central issues for wine growers. We have strong relationships and open lines of communication with water enforcement agencies (federal, state and local), enabling us to resolve cases quickly and cost-effectively. Our experience includes:

•    Handling water permits, water quality compliance, and other general environmental permitting issues
•    Advising on groundwater management and water curtailment, as well as on conservation orders and regulations in times of drought
•    Adjudicating surface and groundwater rights before agencies and courts
•    Acquiring and transferring water right permits
•    Advising on the reconveyance of appropriative and riparian rights
•    Assisting with water quality compliance and enforcement defense
•    Representation of a winery against Zone 7 agency regarding a well permit
•    Representation of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies in Sustainable Groundwater Management Act compliance and groundwater adjudications
•    Representation of agencies in resolving water rights complaints involving flows for endangered fish species

Family Wealth Planning 

For many of our winery and vineyard owner clients, family is key. When it comes time to pass the torch from one generation to the next, our wine law attorneys work closely with our estate planning attorneys to ensure a successful transition.

Intellectual Property

Trademark clearance and protection is critical for wineries, whether small grape growers or those with global brands. We have successfully represented wineries and their affiliates in trademark clearance, U.S. and international trademark prosecution, and U.S. and international litigation and trademark enforcement, including matters before the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and dozens of trademark offices abroad. Our clients also include other producers of alcoholic beverages, including those with famous trademarks.

Labor and Employment

We have counseled winery owners on the full range of employment matters, including wage-and-hour, discrimination, reasonable accommodation, leaves of absence, and union-related issues. We also have defended numerous wineries in employment-related litigation including single, multi-plaintiff, and class action lawsuits involving ADA Title III, sexual harassment, and other workplace claims. Our experience includes:

•    Representation of one of the ten largest wine producers in the United States, providing advice and counseling on labor and employment matters as well as employment-related disputes
•    Representation of a family-owned, organic winery regarding workplace policies and employment actions, as well as threatened litigation
•    Defense of numerous wineries in Paso Robles, Napa, and Sonoma counties regarding ADA Title III matters
•    Defense of a barrel manufacturer in TCA (corkage) litigation

Representative Clients

•    Wineries
•    Vineyard owners
•    Tasting Rooms
•    Breweries
•    Hotels
•    Vineyard management companies
•    Investment groups
•    Insurers
•    Business suppliers
•    Wine distributors
•    Grape contractors
•    Institutional lenders

Key Contacts

Sean Marciniak
Sean Marciniak
San Francisco, CA
Jim Eastman
James Eastman
Walnut Creek, CA

View all Attorneys >

News & Resources

View All >