Last week, a series of powerful storms dumped 7 inches of rain on Sonoma County over the span of 48 hours, and floodwaters wreaked havoc on several townships. The Barlow, a shopping district located at the eastern edge of Sebastopol and home to several wineries and savouring rooms, was one of the waterlogged areas. A week after the flooding began, owneds and vintners are starting to assess the damage and pick up the pieces.
“It’s a big mess, ” said Pax Mahle, owner and winemaker for Pax Wines. “We have sustained serious damage to our savor room and winery, and have a full-time savor room personnel that is onsite helping with the cleanup, ” he added, while also conveying gratitude that they weren’t made worse. The facility is also home to Carlo and Dante Mondavi’s Raen, as well as other boutique wineries such as Jolie-Laide, Jaimee Motley, Rootdown and Martha Stoumen.
Pax is one of two affected wineries with production on site. The other, Kosta Browne, did have some water inside the winery, but all of its equipment and inventory was safe. Chief marketing policeman Carol Reber said they took every measure possible to safeguard the wines in barrel and bottle.
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While many areas flooded when the Russian River and its ancillary creeks rose, the Barlow lies in a flood plain adjacent to the Laguna de Santa Rosa Watershed. There was so much rainfall that there was nowhere for the water to run, and it pooled and swelled, eventually encroaching on the Barlow.
Some tenants have already re-opened for business, while others have suffered complete loss. Many are questioning the property owners’ preparedness, bearing in mind the fact that construction of the Barlow was merely approved by city officials under the condition that a comprehensive flood plan be in place due to its place. Seven-foot flood locks were supposed to be deployed in the case of emergency. Tenants say that they were emailed a warns that the flood obstacles may need to be installed. There was no further communication, and by the next morning, the Barlow was underwater.
“Basically we all went to bed supposing the worst-case scenario is that the floor would be wet the next day, ” said Friedeman owner and winemaker Brooks Friedeman. “There was 51 inches of standing water. We lost all our furniture and electronics, and 93 cases of wine.”
Friedeman said they were preparing to send a wine shipment when the flooding passed. “Normally we’d have about half that much wine, and from a winemaker’s standpoint, losing that much hard work stings.” Friedeman said geographical location was the determining factor of who took the most injury. His savouring room is likely second-closest to the watershed. Other businesses farther west suffered less water damage.
Another tasting room at the Barlow, MacPhail, was also hit hard. A representative said here savouring room would be closed indefinitely. Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winner Zazu Kitchen+ Farm also sustained water damage.
Mahle noted that flood insurance in a flood zone is cost-prohibitive, and no one in the area carries it. He expects to reopen in April, but said the reality is that he doesn’t know much yet. As of now, the buildings affected are considered inhabitable, but will need to be fully cleaned and inspected before enterprises can resume.
The calculated inundation injury in Sonoma County has totaled $155 million, including injuries to approximately 1,900 homes and 578 industries. Relief and fundraising endeavors have been established for those affected.
“The next steps aren’t clear, ” said Friedeman. “It’s going to be a heck of a process, but our thumbs are traversed we can come back.”
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