Bay Area warehouse fire destroys significant wines

An ex-military storage facility in Vallejo on San Francisco Bay, believed by many winery owners to offer the safest wine storage conditions available, was destroyed by fire on the night of 12 oct. Sean Thackrey, one of the wine world's most intellectual and quirky producers, has been particularly badly affected. As this report from the San Francisco Chronicle makes clear, he is not at all sure that he can carry on producing, or even drinking, wine from his miniature domestic base in Bolinos.

The respected Saintsbury winery, one of the oldest in Carneros, has lost its entire museum stock, bottles from 1979 intended for vertical tastings. David Graves of Saintsbury reports in more detail:

Word may reach the wine community of a large fire at a wine warehouse south of Napa. At this point, we don't know the extent of the damage, but I will give a little background.

The wine warehouse in question, called Wines Central, occupied a World War II-era building on the site of the now-closed Mare Island Naval Shipyard. This complex, the Navy ran from before the Civil War, was closed in a miltary base restructuring in the mid-1990's. This building was a in effect a massive concrete barn, an above-ground bunker meant to safely handle explosives like torpedo warheads, and, legend has it, the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

Wines Central was one of many businesses to re-use the military buildings and had made a business of storage of cased wine and even full barrels. Its customers were wineries, distributors and collectors, and apparently some other users (see the article).

Most of our wine is safe elsewhere, but our older vintages were stored there. The cool bay-side climate and the massive concrete walls made for a very benign environment. At this moment, we may have lost essentially all of our older wines. We can take comfort that unlike others we did not lose our entire inventory. Now the fire investigators and the insurance adjusters will take over. Meanwhile, the 2005 harvest for us wraps up in fine weather.

I suppose we should all go and check our insurance documentation immediately.