Vintners’ political commentary sparks Facebook boycott of his Napa Valley wineries

by TrevR on April 18, 2010

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Earlier this month Dario Sattui, owner of Napa Valley’s V. Sattui Winery and Castello di Amorosa, penned a letter to the editor of a local paper regarding the compensation and benefits of local firefighters.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, Sattui’s words have sparked outrage amongst both wine consumers and local firefighters, who have turned to Facebook to organize themselves and voice their response.

In a letter to the editor of The American Canyon Eagle dated April 8, 2010, Sattui wrote:

Had I had any real brains, I would have become a firefighter. What a racket they have.

While I respect the work they do, and the inherent dangers, they are greatly overpaid, work only two days a week (a third of which they sleep) and get to retire at 50 years old at 90 percent of their pay after working 30 years.

But maybe getting paid 90 percent of one’s maximum pay for another 25-30 years for doing nothing isn’t so unjust as they received high salaries for working very little before they retired.

Of course, most of them supplement that high pay with second jobs to allay the boredom, as they have so much free time on their hands.

Sattui goes on to state he doen’t blame the firefighters, but rather “the politicians and the government administrators.” Regardless, local firefighters and the community are fighting back.

This weekend we were alerted to the existence of a Facebook group called “Public Safety Boycott V Sattui Winery and Castello di Amoroso“. The group, which this morning counted some 370 members, is now rapidly approaching 500 700 1,200 2,000 members as we write this.

One member, Sharon Bookmyer Marangoni posted “This is too bad……I really do like Castello di Amoroso…Oh, and I like his wine too….but I will never drink it again. I suspect he can afford to lose just one patron, but the negative advertising he is getting from this may actually hurt business.”

Meanwhile, member Robin Helmstreit wrote “Sad to read this. I used to buy cases of their Gamay for xmas gifts. No longer.”

For all the talk about how wineries can and should use social media to engage their consumers, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens in this case.

UPDATE (4/19/10 at 2pm PT): Dario Sattui has taken to V. Sattui’s Facebook page to issue a response to the uproar caused by his letter to the editor. For those without a Facebook account (does anyone really NOT have one at this point?), here’s his post in full:

Response from Dario Sattui

Today at 11:31am
1. Although it may not have been clear, my criticism was directed to the American Canyon City Council for they are the ones that have agreed to the salary and benefits for the firefighters that we clearly cannot afford. My beef is not with firefighters or other safety personnel, I respect and deeply appreciate their hard work, the risks that they take for all our safety, and I honor them for doing so. My concern is strictly with budgets, not with the firefighters themselves, as I indicated in my letter.

2 I was speaking strictly about American Canyon firefighters and their recent salary negotiations. American Canyon firefighters are represented by the same union that helped create the recent bankruptcy of Vallejo, the first time in California history that a city has filed for bankruptcy, and high pay/benefits for safety was a key problem that forced that bankruptcy.

3. In Vallejo many of the firefighters were making more than 200K a year, one made $357,000 annually, and the average compensation was more than $ 164,000 including incentive pay and overtime. These facts are a matter of public record. Check them out for yourselves.

This was a situation that got completely out of hand until the city went belly up. I fear that the county of Napa is heading in the same direction and that is why I felt I had to speak out as a concerned citizen. Napa cannot fix the roads, has chronically underfunded schools, has in some instances let sewage water that is not sufficiently treated spill out causing environmental damage because the county is so underfunded in its infrastructure needs that it cannot afford to fix it. Yet we have firefighters whose jobs are, according to them, identical in 90% of their duties to paramedics. But these Napa County paramedics make only about
$50,000 a year with much lower benefits. The firefighters in Napa make about 140K on average and many make much more than that. The firefighters in American Canyon can retire at 55 with 35 years of service at 105 % of their maximum annual compensation for life. When are we going to achieve some kind of balance? Again these facts are a matter of public record.

4. I wrote as a citizen of Napa to my local paper about a local issue that I am concerned about, and it has nothing to do with my wineries. I care about what happens in my home town, and I care about the fact that we have schools that have overcrowded classrooms and homeless women giving birth under bridges downtown, and yet we have this local class of workers that are clearly overpaid and getting more all the time when we can’t even fund decent social services in this town. Let’s remember too that we have other professions that work hard, are very important to society and risk their lives for much less money: soldiers, police in the inner cities, nurses working the night shift saving lives, teachers making a difference in troubled areas. And don’t forget about the many thousands of volunteer firefighters that often get nothing or very little compensation for their selfless hard work and risking their lives. All I ask is that we have balance and don’t have civic expenditures we can’t pay for.

We need to bring things back into balance. I am sorry if some of you disagree with that, but I wonder how much you really know about what is going on with the extravagant budgets in Napa County, because that is what this is about, not any place else. These are the facts. You decide if you agree with my opinions.

Dario Sattui

[techtags: Napa, Napa Valley, wine, winery, Sattui, Dario Sattui, V. Sattui Winery, Castello di Amorosa]

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About the Author

has written 725 posts on The Cork Board. He was born and aged in the Napa Valley and has a passion for wine, writing and social media, which led him to co-found this blog in early 2007. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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