Thursday, November 03, 2005

Report from Wines Central

Damage reports are now coming in from the devastating warehouse fire in Vallejo earlier this month. Yesterday's New York Times reported some of the worst of it. Here's what we seem to know so far: The fire stared in an upstairs mezzanine, one of the few areas with wood in it (the building is a former Naval storage facility with 3-foot thick concrete walls); it was arson; and the area where it started was where the older, more valuable wines were kept. Preliminary estimates are that $100 million worth of wine was destroyed. While many larger wineries lost their libraries (valuable historical vintages used for tastings and comparisons), some smaller houses lost entire inventories. Some of the losses include:

* Tres Sabores, Rutherford: 2400 cases including most of their 2003 vintage
* Viader Vineyards, Deer Park: nearly all their inventory including a 2003 cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc blend
* Saintsbury, Carneros: inventory and their entire library, about 3000 cases
* Thackrey, Bolinas: 3500 cases lost (of 4000 total inventory)

The Napa Valley Vintners Association held an emergency meeting last week to give guidance to winemakers on what can be salvaged and how to recover. Chemical analysis can only determine if the seal has been broken or if the chemistry of the wine has changed. It can't tell winemakers how much heat the wine was exposed to or how it will continue to age. Look for more news on how winemakers will continue to assess damage and decide what, if anything, is salvageable from the warehouse. The ATF has to approve sale of any inventory involved in the fire. No arrests have been made although police are investigating the fire as a criminal matter.

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