Wikimedia Commons / Ethan Prater / CC BY 2.0

Black Winemakers Accuse Bank of Racial Discrimination

Sterling family allege their bank steered their winery into costly high-interest loans because of their race

Losing a business is never a good feeling, but for the Sterling family, losing their winery left a particularly sour taste.

The Sterlings allege their bank, Bank of the West, pushed the winery into expensive, high-interest loans because they are black, which led to their bankruptcy, reports The Press Democrat. The most recent complaint filed last week is the latest development in a yearlong legal battle between the Sterling family and Bank of the West.

The bank took ownership of the Sterlings’ Healdsburg winery after being given clearance by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge. Bank of the West has plans to sell the Esterlina production facility, tasting room, and 20-acre estate to Eric Flanagan, proprietor of Flanagan Wines.

The Sterlings have hired San Francisco attorney Waukeen Q. McCoy, who intends to hold the bank accountable for the family’s losses. Brothers Eric and Craig Sterling assert that Bank of the West put their business into loans with “higher interest rates and less favorable terms than loans provided to white vintners in similar situations.”

The complaint reads, “Even as BOW’s representatives knew that Esterlina was in dire financial distress, BOW chose to do nothing to fix a problem it helped create.” 

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