Bank seizes Whitman Cellars

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Pine Street winery Whitman Cellars was seized by the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office in late January as the result of a lawsuit filed by Community Bank.

The bank claims the Walla Walla winery has defaulted on three loans and owes about $2.67 million in unpaid principal, interest and other charges, according to a suit filed in Superior Court.

The bank's request for a "writ of attachment" to seize the property at 1015 W. Pine St., including inventory and assets, as a means to satisfying any final judgment in the case was granted by Judge Donald W. Schacht.

Andrea Burkhart, attorney for Community Bank, said in an announcement her client is in the process of obtaining a court-appointed receiver to sell the assets.

She said Community Bank initiated legal action reluctantly after attempts to make arrangements with the winery owners were unsuccessful.

Whitman Cellars co-owner Larry Thomason said he knew nothing of the suit just hours before the locks were changed at the property. The business has been for sale for five years, he said. A listing on the Coldwell Banker First Realtors site had an asking price of nearly $3 million for the business and property.

The winery was started in 1998 by Thomason and his wife, Sally, and John Edwards with a crush of two barrels of merlot and one of cabernet sauvignon, which were blended into meritage, according to details from the winery's website. The downtown tasting room was opened in 2001. In 2002, Steve Lessard joined the team as a member and head winemaker.

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