This blog has always been personal and usually about my observations of our business and our business dealings, about agriculture, trends in the wine industry, rare wines and special dinners, mostly enjoyable subjects that I have experienced and want to share. I wanted to take a short pause in the general merriment and blogging about Burgundy to address the fire that many of you have read about on various social media pages and as well on the Wine Spectator website.
On August 27th, our agricultural barn at the Bergstrom Vineyard in Dundee caught fire destroying the barn itself, the tractor and several of the farming implements inside. The Northern half of this barn was used as a private wine storage by my father and mother and myself and unfortunately we believe that most of the 150+ cases of rare wines from around the world as well as library bottles and large formats of Bergstrom Wines from 1999-2009 that we had collected over the years were also destroyed as temperatures inside of the smoldering building reached 300-400 Fahrenheit.
The Dundee and Newberg Fire departments were quickly on the scene with five trucks and fifteen brave firefighters who helped to extinguish the blaze before the entire building could burn down or the fire could spread or even potentially worse; ignite the agricultural diesel and gasoline tanks stored adjacent to the building. It could have been a lot worse. Fortunately no one was injured in the fire and that is the most important thing. The fire was believed to be caused by two Organically listed agricultural spray ingredients: copper hydroxide powder (a common fungicide amongst Organic and Biodynamic growers across the world) and Stylet oil (a mineral oil also widely used to control pests and disease on plants in the early spring) which when mixed can combust. We obviously did not know this and unfortunately learned the hard way. It’s a tough pill to swallow knowing that just because we do not use pesticides or insecticides or herbicides or systemic fungicides in our vineyards that the organic chemicals we do use could have such a bad reaction when put together. These chemicals are never sprayed at the same time but unfortunately were stored on the same shelf together and that is what started the spark that quickly ignited the chemical closet and spread to the barn. It is important that other Organic and Biodynamic farmers understand the dangers that some chemicals pose when combined and it is important to make sure that we all have metal chemical closets to help contain fires if one was to start. Unfortunately, ours was made of wood.
The reasons I write about this fire today are three-fold. First off it is good to discuss it and seek closure on this event so that we can focus on the work at hand which is the bottling of our awesome 2012 wines and preparing for our fifteenth vintage at Bergstrom Wines with this year’s 2013 harvest. Second, we wanted to re-iterate to everybody that the fire did not take place at our winery and our team is safe and and our general stock of wines, both current release and library are safe and sound in a different off-site warehouse. We are open for business as usual. Third and very important is that I want to thank all of the people who have sent hundreds of text messages, phone calls, posts on social media and e-mails all wishing us well and expressing heartfelt condolences. People from the industry and clients have come out of the woodwork to offer help, lend implements and tractors and I have even had winemakers show up to my winery with wines from their personal cellars to help us rebuild our collection. I have never seen such an outpouring of sincere kindness and for that I will forever be grateful.
I personally did not think that this event was news-worthy and when the Wine Spectator was writing an article within 18 hours to post it on their website I was very uncomfortable about it. We do not seek to have our private lives shared with hundreds of thousands of people and dealing with a loss and the work that comes with it makes it harder when so many eyes are also pointed at your problem. But the point was raised that farmers need to know about the potential hazards of chemical storage, even if those are Organic ingredients and I agree. This kind of a fire could happen to anyone and it could be a lot worse if their chemical closet was located in their winery or house or garage. Accidents happen and sometimes they lead to tragedy and create unwanted stress or grief. This unfortunate event will be repaired and we will move on but we will always remember the care and the thoughts that you have sent us. Wine libraries can be re-built as can barns and tractors, but human life cannot and we are so grateful that nobody was hurt in this accident. Thank you.