The Napa Valley’s Signorello Estate burned down in the October wildfires. But the cabernet sauvignon winery’s previous experience with a major blaze before has helped it get ready quickly for the rebuild.
The 4-decade-old winery became the worldwide face of the firestorms that swept through Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties starting Oct. 8–9, as the Atlas fire engulfed the stone-faced winery building at 4500 Silverado Trail. Less than a dozen of the hundreds of North Coast wineries was destroyed in the October wildfires.
Signorello Estate’s 42 acres of vines weren’t damaged. Grapes already had been picked, and most of the wine made from them was stored at an offsite warehouse, according to owner Ray Signorello Jr. The winery makes about 6,000 cases annually, and its wines retail for $100–$200 a bottle.
It was quite a different story for the winery almost a dozen years ago to the day, when it lost two vintages — 15,000 cases — in the massive Wine Central warehouse fire on Mare Island in Vallejo. Miles away, Signorello Estate’s property wasn’t touched. The Oct. 12, 2005, arson blaze cooked 4.5 million bottles of wine stored for nearly 100 vintners and collectors, and the total value lost was about $250 million, according to Decanter.
“I’m pretty versed in fire insurance,” Signorello said. Last time, it was about inventory loss and business interruption, because of the destroyed inventory. This time, it is about structure loss as well as a halt to operations.
Up in smoke last year were the winery building with its lab, hospitality center and offices. The home on the property also burned, but no one got hurt. Started by Signorello and his father in 1977 with planting of vineyards, Signorello Estate erected the hospitality building in the mid-1980s, when the growers turned vintners.
The winery has hired Taylor Lomardo Architects of San Francisco to design an “open, modern structure” for the rebuilt winery. Returning will be a full commercial kitchen to supply the food and wine pairing for visitors to the new hospitality building. The home on the property also is being rebuilt.
Something new for Signorello with the rebuild will be an 8,000-square-foot cave for aging wine. The vintner hired Santa Rosa-based Nordby Construction, whose construction services division will coordinate the planning and building process. Nordby’s wine caves division will handle mining and finishes for the cellar and its hospitality area.
When the cave is ready, Signorello plans to host visitors there until the winery is rebuilt.
Caves were key to the survival of inventory and operations for some North Coast vintners during the October fires. Patland Estate Vineyards lost its hospitality building on Soda Canyon Road in the Atlas Peak fire, but the wines survived in the property’s cave cellar. And production for Patland and three other vintners was saved in custom winery Cave at Soda Canyon.
‘KNOW WHAT COVERAGE YOU HAVE’
The Wines Central experience taught Signorello two key lessons about insurance during a disaster: Make sure the business is properly covered, and hire an advocate during the claim process.
“Know what coverage you have,” Signorello said. “Many people find out about their insurance through a loss. Make sure there is enough coverage for loss.”
For structures, it’s key to know what it will cost in today’s dollars to rebuild, he said. Homeowners in the North Coast have been getting a sobering awakening to the true cost of construction, and many have been finding that coverage in their policies is well below what it would take to replace their lost houses.
Read more about how North Bay business is recovering from the October fires: nbbj.news/2017fires