murderby Tim Fish -

 A Napa Valley, Yountville vineyard became a crime scene on Monday, as a business meeting ended with two men dead in an apparent murder-suicide over a loan gone bad.

Vintner Robert Dahl allegedly shot his former business investor, Emad Tawfilis, in the head and then fled his Yountville winery with Napa sheriff’s deputies in pursuit. The chase began just before noon and continued for 10 miles, north on busy Highway 29 and then west up Oakville Grade to a remote country road where, according to sources, Dahl apparently killed himself.

The two men were at Dahl’s Napa Point Winery and on a telephone conference call with their attorneys when they took a break on Monday. The lawyers never heard from them again. “It was a usual business meeting,” said Dahl’s attorney, Kousha Berokim. “There was nothing dramatic or violent or odd about it.”

 Photo: Napa law enforcement personnel investigate the scene of a murder, on the corner of Solano Avenue and Hoffman Lane, south of Yountville on Monday, March 16, 2015. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/ PD)

Tawfilis, who lived in Santa Clara County south of San Francisco, loaned $1.2 million to Dahl’s businesses, including Napa Point, in 2013, through his firm Lexington Street Investments. The relationship soured in early 2014 when Dahl allegedly refused to pay back the loan, according to David Wiseblood, Tawfilis’ San Francisco attorney. 

The dispute wound its way through the Napa County courts until Dahl was ordered to give nine wine tanks as payment to Tawfilis. According to court documents, Dahl had not turned over five of the tanks by March 4, which led to Monday's meeting. In an interview with Wine Spectator, Berokim defended his client, arguing, “There was a dispute as to who owed who and how much.”

The sheriff’s department was not available for comment, but according to media reports, Tawfilis was able to call 911 after he was shot. Dahl fled the scene as sheriff's deputies arrived. Tawfilis was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Dahl's business dealings included the now-defunct Patio Wine Co., which at one point was the producer of a sangria for celebrity Adam Carolla, and the short-lived North Point Brewery in Napa.

It was Tawfilis’ first and only investment in the wine business, according to Wiseblood. “Mr. Dahl had a past that was not known to my client [at the time of the investment],” said Wiseblood. “Mr. Tawfilis was not somebody who had a lot of money to lose. It’s just so senseless.”

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