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Wineries lose product

SONOMA VALLEY FIREFIGHTERS survey a small lake of wine outside the Sebastiani Winery Sunday morning. Bill Hoban/Index-Tribune

SONOMA VALLEY FIREFIGHTERS survey a small lake of wine outside the Sebastiani Winery Sunday morning. Bill Hoban/Index-Tribune

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Wineries didn’t escape the effects of Sunday morning’s 6.0 earthquake. The grapes on the vines were unaffected, but some of the barrel storage warehouses in Sonoma took a hit.

Michael Coats, a spokesman for the Ledson Winery, said three dozen or more barrels tumbled as a result of the quake. Coats said not all the barrels were full, but a number were.

While he said he can’t speak for everyone, he thinks a number of the storage facilities on Eighth Street East were affected by the quake, but said the degree of damage hasn’t been completely assessed.

“Sam Sebastiani was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as losing 48 barrels,” Coates said. “I would think that most wineries are insured for loss of goods.”

“Thank god it happened at 3:30 in the morning instead of midday,” he said, referring to all the damage in Napa.

The Sebastiani Winery on Fourth Street East in Sonoma had 14 storage tanks compromised. The tanks contained 541,000 gallons of wine, and some spilled into Nathanson Creek.  But sandbags and a pump contained the spill and kept it from going downstream.
Sunday morning, Brandon Donovan, maintenance supervisor at Sebastiani, said they were pumping the wine from the compromised tanks into other tanks, and it would be a while before they knew how much wine was lost.

“We sand bagged and started pumping right away,” he said. Even though the power was out, the winery has some gas-powered pumps that were put into service. By late Sunday morning, there was a small lake of wine outside the crush facility.

Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue personnel were monitoring the situation as were the county’s HazMat team.

Coats, whose public relations firm includes wineries as clients, said, “Even with the quake, Wine Country is not closed.”

But the post-quake scene in the Napa Valley was significantly more serious, with reports still coming in about major losses in barrel rooms, and one report that wine was seen leaking out of the prestigious Napa Barrel Care storage facility.

Bouchaine Vineyards in Carneros reported losing a considerable amount of cabernet, and David Duncan, CEO of famed Silver Oak Winery in Oakville, reported losing hundreds of bottles in his office of mostly single-vineyard blends.
No reliable figure has yet been reported, but one estimate of the potential value of wine lost to the earthquake combined with property damage  went as high as $1 billion.