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Most wineries not insured for quake losses (w/video)

  • Rene Schlatter, proprietor of Starmont Winery, doesn't know how much of the three thousand full barrels of wine have been lost in the three barrel rooms following the earthquake in Napa. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

Napa and Sonoma winemakers on Monday assessed the toll of the American Canyon earthquake, which could saddle wineries with costly losses because most are not insured for quake damage.

While much of Wine Country suffered minimal or no harm to their facilities during Sunday’s magnitude-6.0 temblor, reports of damaged production equipment and lost wine emerged Monday as wineries cleaned up the mess.

While one Sonoma Valley winery discovered Monday that its losses were much smaller than it originally feared, any quake damage could be expensive, since many small to mid-size wineries opted to go without supplemental earthquake coverage because of cost. For example, only four out of her 80 winery clients have earthquake coverage, said Pam Chanter, owner of Vantreo Insurance Brokerage in Santa Rosa.

Aftermath Of Napa Earthquake

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“It’s expensive,” Chanter said.

A premium on a policy to cover $4 million in inventory can cost $20,000 annually, said Joe Sucatre, vice president for Vantreo. Costs are tied to deductibles, which can range from 5 to 25 percent. A policy with a higher deductible costs less than one with a lower deductible.


The brokerage received six calls reporting damage since Sunday’s quake — and another six calls inquiring about coverage, he said. Insurance companies put a moratorium on selling new coverage for a week after a quake because of aftershocks related to the initial earthquake, Sucatre said.

One of those who elected to forgo earthquake coverage was Rene Schlatter, chief executive officer and president of Napa’s Starmont Winery and Vineyards, which suffered significant damage during the quake.

Schlatter cannot enter two of the three Starmont barrel rooms because barrels were tossed off their racks during the quake, blocking doors and entryways. He estimated that 80 to 90 percent of his 8,000 barrels were affected. About 3,000 of those barrels had wine, mostly 2013 chardonnay and pinot noir and bordeaux varietals, representing millions of dollars in inventory.

“We haven’t been able to assess the extent of the damage,” said Schlatter, who said he felt a small aftershock Monday. “We know we lost some wine.”

A structural engineer visited the Starmont property on Monday to gauge the facility’s integrity as Schlatter decides the best options to enter the barrel rooms and check inventory. In the meantime, Schlatter brought in portable cooling units to ensure the wine does not spoil. He also ordered a crane to move the barrels.


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