Wine Fire Suspicions

Investigators are sifting through the charred remains of a Vallejo warehouse trying to determine what caused a fire last week that destroyed thousands of cases of fine wine. Several Napa and Sonoma winemakers said some of their prized vintages were stored in the Mare Island warehouse, which ruined wine valued at millions of dollars. The fire is considered suspicious. Sleuths from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have joined investigators from the Vallejo Fire Department seeking the cause of the Oct. 12 blaze. Officials intend to interview anyone who visited the building on the day of the fire. Among those who visited the building was Mark Anderson, owner of Sausalito Cellars wine storage company. According to the Napa Valley Register, Anderson is facing embezzlement charges in Marin County, stemming from complaints that he stole 7,600 bottles of rare wine from his customers. “Spontaneous combustion occurs, but only in certain situations,” Bill Tweedy, a spokesman for the Vallejo Fire Department, told the Register. “[Here] it’s not likely.”

West Nile Count

Alfred Hitchcock got it all wrong. In his 1963 movie The Birds, shot on the Sonoma Coast, people run screaming from the talons of crows. But 40-some years on, we humans have a new fear of birds: disease. Last week, nine birds in Sonoma and Napa counties tested positive for West Nile virus, an avian ailment that’s transmitted by mosquitoes. Among the infected birds were a domestic goose from Sebastopol and a warbling vireo from Mill Valley. This year, 76 birds have tested positive for West Nile virus, according to the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District. One human and a horse, both in Sonoma County, have also been infected. Residents with mosquito problems are encouraged to call the district at 707.285.2200.

Timber Compromise?

Environmentalists hoping to stop Sonoma County growers from converting timberlands to vineyards appear to be giving up hope for a ban. The county Board of Supervisors is drafting a compromise measure that would allow such conversions for landowners who have been granted permits. Supervisor Mike Reilly said he supports an outright ban but believes that’s not realistic. The proposed measure “is not perfect and it’s not everything I hoped for,” Reilly told the Press Democrat, “but it will be the most stringent local ordinance in the state that preserves forest.” In addition to a local permit, landowners seeking to convert forest lands would require approval from the California Department of Forestry.

–Briefs by Michael Shapiro

From the October 19-25, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

© 2005 Metro Publishing Inc.