Laetitia Winery owners respond to criticism over lawsuit

May 13, 2019

Opinion by Terry Wheatley, president of Vintage Wine Estates

Open letter to the San Luis Obispo County Community:

We have heard your voices and want to open up a conversation about the closure of the four crossings, inclusive of the El Campo Road turn-off. Yes, it’s true that our company, Vintage Wine Estates, filed a suit against Caltrans to stop the closure.

But our intent was not to take the safety of the community lightly nor to take lightly the tragic death of Jordan Grant.

Our intent was to create positive action for Caltrans to evaluate all of the impacts of the closures that are likely to occur, mitigate those impacts, and importantly, consider and adopt a permanent solution to El Campo Road access, not only for Laetitia Winery but for the many homes and ranches along El Campo Road.

We support an overpass, currently on a 20-year project completion timeline, to be fast-tracked by Cal Trans on an accelerated five-year completion date. This is a solution that will benefit everybody who uses El Campo Road for safe, everyday access to homes and businesses, and most importantly, in case of emergencies such as wildfires.

We believe these alternatives should have been adopted as part of the decision to close the four crossings.

The lawsuit was intended to focus Sacramento on the urgent issue and not settle for a stop gap or years-down-the-road solution. We are continuing to work hard towards this goal. We fell short of our responsibility to explore and communicate this to the community and for that we apologize.

The safety of El Campo Road and the other three crossings is a priority for our company, as employees, guests and neighbors use it every day. We have employees who are past students of Cal Poly and many of us are parents or family members of students, so this issue hits very close to home.

We are committed to being part of the traffic and safety solution for El Campo Road.

Terry Wheatley is the president of Vintage Wine Estates, which recently acquired Laetitia Winery.


Forget the interchange. We all have to deal with traffic that did not exist before the new Falcon Crest development or the new, litigious, whiny winery. No personal $30 million interchange that they did not pay s**t towards when they developed their properties and now demand that taxpayers, not themselves of course, fund. SLOCOG monies need to be spent efficaciously, not politically. Rich LA Falcon Crest brats need to take Valley and Fair Oaks Ave. into AG and existing 101 interchanges and not demand the right to make stupid left turns they cannot execute across a busy freeway.


Mr. Wheatley… if you want an overpass so bad, use your money to build one. If you choose to use your money for other things, then the next best solution (in terms of safety) is to close the left-turn lane.


Mr. Wheatley . . . While you didn’t create this problem, you also did not weigh in during all of the discussion prior to the decision to close the cross-overs. Nor have you lived in the community and been a part of the discussion during all of the years prior to this tragic death that finally motivated someone to care enough to push for a solution. Yes, it is a temporary solution . . . but if you had been paying attention you would have seen that it doesn’t preclude an overpass in the future. If you are concerned about the safety of your employees and customers, suggest that they do what I have done for years – drive a little bit further to one of the safe freeway entrances and backtrack the mile or two to your winery. We would like to be a welcoming community to VWE, but we put the safety and future of our residents first.

Uncle Jack

This intersection is nothing compared to other hot spots on Hwy 101. Go up around Prunedale and you will see plenty of Hwy 101 crossings that are much, much worse.

The state is huge with bigger road problems elsewhere. Use money more wisely by tackling the highest risk first.

Mr. Grant, due to your know-it-all attitude and your unwillingness to hear others out, please go away. You have worn out your welcome.


Thank you for the suit and getting attention from Sacramento which our local politicians have not seemed to do. I will be buying your wine as I’m sure the 1500 plus who signed the petition for El Campo overpass that recognize the need for normal access and fire dangers will buy too. Someone has to step up to make change. I recognize this effects your many wage earners too.


Sorry Laetitia, not buying the lame excuse.

You’ve lost me as a customer.


To Gary:

I agree, let’s fast track the ultimate solution, an interchange. But I must correct one thing that I don’t think you or most readers understand. Caltrans does not control most of the highway funding in California (Reference: SB45). In fact, in order to fast track this project SLOCOG, (SLOCOG Board/made up of elected officials), would have to make this a priority. Trouble is, every project can’t be a priority so another project would have to get pushed back, and that reshuffle would have to be memorialized in the local Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). So, what project(s) do you think should be replaced with this one? Or, here is a novel idea, how about having the developments pony up the lion share and mitigate the impacts of the various developments that rely on direct SR101 access for viability? You ask that Caltrans mitigate their actions but last I checked Caltrans does not issue building permits. How about leveraging private development funds with public gas tax generated transportation funds?


“The lawsuit was intended to focus Sacramento on the urgent issue and not settle for a stop gap or years-down-the-road solution. We are continuing to work hard towards this goal. We fell short of our responsibility to explore and communicate this to the community and for that we apologize.”

But you don’t withdraw the suit?

If your goal was to get an overpass that you admit will take 20 years; why file an injunction of the immediate remedy? If you want your overpass, your effort should be at SLOCOG and CalTrans to prioritize your goal to be one of theirs.

I don’t buy your “apology” and wont be stopping in to taste or buy your wines…ever…again.

The Mikado

Yeah, they don’t withdraw the suit because Laetitia’s crossover isn’t the problem. El Campo (over a mile away) is. But CalTrans wants to close them all regardless of whether there’s been a historical problem or not.


Dear Terry Wheatley, president of Vintage Wine Estates,

We don’t believe you, and the boycott of Leticia Winery will continue.

Sincerity is always subject to proof, and your actions, rather than your words, speaks volumes about your motives in attempting to stop Caltrans from making the El Campo intersection safer. The fact that stopping this intersection from being murderous for drivers may cost you a small amount of business is small change as we fight to keep people alive on the Central Coast.

If Leticia/Vintage Wine Estates want to ‘be a good neighbor’, as you claim, then end the frivolous lawsuit and truly repent for your souls cooperate behavior.

There is no other way.

Uncle Jack

Speak for yourself or only for your small group of outspoken activists on the matter.

“We” includes a lot of people that support the Winery or any other productive businesses in the community. The Winery didn’t ask to be in the fight but had to defend their interest when backed into a corner. “We” don’t appreciate Mr. Grant’s tactics on the matter.

The Mikado

You’re going to boycott? Perhaps you should learn to spell the name of the company you claim to have been doing business with.