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Wineries: Business as usual

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Four days after the worst earthquake in the Bay Area in 25 years, wineries have spruced things up and are open for business.

Tasting room visitors won’t notice anything amiss since most of the damage was done in barrel storage rooms.

Fourteen stainless steel tanks at the Sebastiani Winery were compromised by the 6.0 quake and employees spent Sunday mopping up and pumping wine into other holding tanks.

“We were open within 24 hours,” said Andrea Smalling, chief marketing officer for Foley Family Wines, owners of Sebastiani. “The wine that leaked was clients’ wine, not our wine. Most Sebastiani wines are in smaller barrels.”

Smalling said on Thursday there was still no concrete estimate of how much wine leaked.

She said that some of Foley’s other labels, up-Valley from Napa in Rutherford and St. Helena, didn’t suffer much damage at all. “It wasn’t as bad as it could have been,” she said.

B.R. Cohn Winery discovered its losses at its Napa warehouse weren’t nearly as bad as the company first thought.

Dan Cohn, president and CEO, was able to get a more accurate assessment of the damages at Cohn’s Napa warehouse facility. He was relieved to find that damages were less than originally feared.

“We have a barrel warehouse pretty close to the earthquake epicenter, so we were very concerned about damage,” said Cohn. “As our cleanup has progressed, we’ve seen that the damage and loss of wine is less than we originally thought. The initial report in the hours after the quake was that we might have lost up to half of our 2013 vintage in barrels. As we sift through things, it’s clear that estimate was not accurate, fortunately. It looks more like 10 or 15 percent. We are still assessing the extent of the damage.”

The Napa warehouse had about 2,600 wine barrels at the time of the quake, but only about 1,100 were full with wine. A significant portion of the 2013 vintage was in tanks and secure at B.R. Cohn’s Glen Ellen winemaking facility for bottling, which reduced losses, said Cohn.

“It looked a lot worse than it was,” he said. “We’re hard at work cleaning up, but we’ll come through fine. We’ve been around for 30 years – we’re dusting ourselves off and moving on with business.” He added that the B.R. Cohn winery and tasting room in Glen Ellen were largely unaffected by the earthquake and were open for business as usual.

Andrew Bilenkij, winemaker at Lesdson Winery, said they lost six full barrels of wine and parts of three pallets of bottled wine.

“We also had 80 empty barrels in a heap,” he said. “We were luckier than others. I’m happy the way the crew came in Sunday and cleaned up. It was pretty messy.”

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” he said. “A lot of barrels shifted, but didn’t tumble. We had to unstack and restack them in case we got hit with any aftershocks.”

Sam Sebastiani might not know how his 45 barrels of zinfandel fared until sometime next week. Sebastiani, owner of La Chertosa Winery, said his wine was in the middle and on the bottom of racks at Napa Barrel Care, not far from the epicenter of the quake.

“There’s several thousand barrels stored there,” he said, “and mine are at the bottom in the middle.”

“They told me they might not get to mine until sometime next week,” he added.

Thursday, he was on his way over to the warehouse to view what he described as a “big jumble of barrels.”

Workers there are taking barrels off one at a time hoping that the other barrels don’t shift, since each full barrel weighs about 600 pounds.

“Last year’s zin won a double gold at the state fair,” he said. “This could be one of the great vintages we’ve had.”

Sebastiani looked philosophically at the quake.

“It’s just stuff,” he said. “Nobody got hurt.”

Envolve Winery, which has a tasting room on the Plaza, reported minimal damage and little loss to its inventory.

Jeff Bundschu, with Gundlach Bundschu, reported on Monday, “We have a few broken bottles and leaning towers of stacked cases at our warehouse, but tasting rooms, storage rooms, barns and basements all around the ranch are pretty much intact.”

He said the most damage was in the company’s offices where a chimney lost some stone and is showing more cracks, and the stone porch shifted and cracked.