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Warehouse Fire Consumes $100 Million in Fine Wine

Posted by perle0 on 2005-10-16 01:35:44 (5386 views)

Tens of millions of dollars worth of vintage wine were believed to be destroyed by a relentless fire October 12 at a huge Vallejo, CA, warehouse that was considered one of the most secure places for wineries and individuals to store prized collections.

The three-alarm fire at Wines Central sent plumes of smoke more than 700 feet high that could be seen from miles and could not be controlled by firefighters because the Mare Island building -- which once housed Navy torpedoes -- had steel doors and 3-foot-thick concrete walls and a roof that could not be penetrated.

Wines Central converted the old military warehouse three years ago into a 240,000-square-foot specialty warehouse that stored more than 500,000 cases of rare vintages believed to be worth up to $100 million, officials said. Clients included wineries, private collectors and some other businesses.

Wines Central was billed on its Web site as having "state-of-the-art" fire monitoring systems and a safe and secure environment that provided "the highest standard of care," because of dense concrete walls, its concrete roof and heavy steel doors. The site was previously used to store Navy torpedoes. In Mare Island's heyday during World War II, Building 627 was the most secure facility at the former shipyard because it housed secret military plans, Vallejo historian Lou Burgelin said.

In 1945, parts of the atom bomb were stored inside the building before they were shipped by the U.S.S. Indianapolis into the Pacific Theater and moved onto the B-29 "Enola Gay" for the Hiroshima bombing, he said.

Wines Central stores both private collections and casks and bottles from Napa, Sonoma and San Rafael wineries, according to its Web site. It also provided shipping and distribution services.

Manager Debby Polverino said the warehouse stored both bottles and barrels from about 95 wineries and about 40 private collectors. There were an estimated 6 million bottles stored inside, some bottles worth thousands each.

More info about the fire.

Reactions from wineries affected by the fire.

Information about initial investigation into the causes. Could it have been a local man accused of embezzling fine wines from his wealthy customers?


Update: Fire is Ruled Arson
Posted by perle0 on 2005-10-20 22:30:13
In a joint news conference, Vallejo Fire and Police departments with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced that early forensic evidence suggested that someone deliberately set the fire that ravaged Wine Central, souring an estimated $100 million worth of wine from more than 80 wineries, including vineyards from Napa, Brentwood and Livermore.

Arson was suspected early, because the facility's 8-foot-thick concrete walls were widely regarded as fireproof.

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