Business Law

Berryman & Montalbano helps owners establish and pursue clear business objectives. We counsel clients on the optimal choice of legal entity, taking into account financing requirements, the need to minimize potential liabilities, tax, cash flow and other financial issues. We work to understand the nature of the client’s business, its operational and management needs, and the owner’s vision for the future.

We draft contracts. A well-written agreement should clarify the rights and responsibilities of the parties and anticipate changing needs and circumstances. Business agreements should serve the productive purpose of making a business relationship more likely to succeed by establishing a framework for communication and decision-making. Contracts should not be just defensive in nature; they should be written to promote lasting business relationships.

We also assist clients with the purchase and sale of businesses, the involvement of outside investors, financing, strategic planning, retirement, and other exit strategies

Real Estate

Berryman & Montalbano represents clients in a variety of sophisticated real property transactions, from planning the structure of the transaction to the negotiation of terms, due diligence, and closing. The firm’s long experience with California commercial and residential real estate issues is the foundation for its approach to new clients and new matters.

Our focus is not to “close the deal at all costs.” No deal is better than a bad deal. We provide unbiased legal advice and support that advice with representation during negotiations, careful document drafting, and seeing the transaction through to closing. We do not make decisions for clients. We advise clients about their options, and, where appropriate, we make recommendations; our objective is to put our clients in position to make informed decisions for themselves.

Estate Planning and Administration

Berryman & Montalbano assists clients with all aspects of estate planning and the administration of estates. We draft wills and trusts, from simple documents to complex trusts for clients with estate tax minimization needs, illiquid estates, blended families, or other complications. Individuals with estates large enough to incur estate taxes require sophisticated planning to minimize those taxes, but a well-thought out estate plan also takes into account capital gains tax issues, property tax issues, and other financial challenges. The firm counsels clients on tax minimization techniques, including strategic gifting, irrevocable trusts, family limited partnerships, tenancy-in-common agreements, and multi-generational planning.

Berryman & Montalbano also administers trusts following death with particular emphasis on asset valuation, strategic sub-trust funding decisions, and the preparation of estate and income tax returns with certified public accountants.

Winery and Vineyard

Berryman & Montalbano has developed an extensive knowledge of the wine industry. Wineries, vineyard owners, vineyard managers, cork suppliers, bottle etchers, winemakers, and others seek our counsel and representation. The scope of our work ranges from drafting business operational agreements, such as custom crush agreements, vineyard leases, vineyard management contracts, grape purchase contracts, and consulting agreements to important transitional phases such as investor financing documents, facility leases, wine label trademark applications, winery purchases and sales, and business succession planning for family-owned wineries.


Berryman & Montalbano serves clients with both specific and general investment objectives. We evaluate investment opportunities and counsel our clients on the legal and financial risks involved. We also draft agreements and other documents necessary to facilitate particular investments.

The firm also advises clients on broader investing levels. We can help develop and maintain a diversified investment portfolio that balances the preservation of capital with long-term growth and income objectives. Unlike many investment professionals, we do not have an interest in placing clients in any particular investments because we do not earn commissions. We charge hourly fees for unbiased advice.

A diversified portfolio of debt, equity, cash and other assets classes is a wise component of a good personal financial plan. Our work in this area is often integrated into larger issues in estate, retirement, tax, and insurance planning.

Business Succession Planning

Napa Valley has experienced tremendous economic growth over the past 30 years and many Napa families have built valuable businesses. Our expertise in business, real estate, tax, and estate planning, and our experience in combining these disciplines, puts us in position to help clients recognize the value of the businesses they have developed.

Our business succession planning with winery owners and others in the wine business involves some industry-specific issues, but most of the principles of business succession planning are not industry-specific, and we also counsel business owners in other industries.

Effective business succession plans require a delicate balance of tax, financial, control, and operational issues; we work with our clients to strike the right balance for their circumstances.