California wine country is reeling after
a huge warehouse fire wiped out millions worth of rare vintages.
No one was seriously injured in the fire, the cause of which
was still under investigation, and the losses weren't expected
to put a big dent in the state's multibillion-dollar wine
But for some, the potential loss of years of effort and
hope spelled big trouble.
"It is a terrible thing," said Gary Lipp, who
suspects that most of his 2003 cabernet sauvignon and all
of his 2004 pinot noir are gone.
Lipp and Brooks Painter, both wine industry veterans, started
the small Coho Wines brand three years ago and had been
getting good reviews.
They still have some wine stored in another warehouse and
some in barrels. But the new wine will have to be aged at
least 18 months before it can be sold, meaning stalled momentum
during the crucial holiday period.
"We'll send letters to our customers telling them
we look forward to seeing them again in the spring of 2007,"
said Lipp with resigned good humor. He's hopeful he'll be
able to keep the brand going although he predicts a tough
couple of years.
The fire broke out Wednesday afternoon in the warehouse
just south of the Napa Valley and about 30 miles northeast
of San Francisco. The fire is being regarded as suspicious
partly because the building appeared to be fire-resistant,
a dense, concrete structure once used to repair submarines.
Structural damage from the fire, which took about eight
hours to control, was estimated at $10 million, said Vallejo
fire department spokesman Bill Tweedy. Losses to the contents
of the building were unknown, although Polverino estimated
it could be in the tens of millions.
Wines stored in the building ranged from huge chunks of
smaller wineries' inventories to "library" collections
of rare vintages. Even if bottles are intact, it's feared
high temperatures will have spoiled the wine.
About 70 wineries leased space in the building, which also
stored sugar and other food products.