Schorr Lake Winery down but not out following fires

Waterloo firefighters battle flames shooting from a barn at Schorr Lake Vineyard & Winery early Monday morning. (Kermit Constantine photo)

The owner of a Waterloo winery vows to remain in business even after two devastating fires over the past week destroyed its production facility.

“We’re absolutely still open for events,” said Paul Nobbe, owner of Schorr Lake Vineyard & Winery at 1032 South Library Street. “I don’t have a processing plant anymore. I may need to buy some (wine) on the open market to get us by.”

The most destructive of the two fires occurred shortly after 10:30 p.m. last Wednesday, when a roughly 60-foot-by-100-foot steel-sided barn at the winery erupted in flames.

Firefighters responded quickly to the blaze and were able to salvage some of the contents inside at that time. The fire originated in the rear portion of the building, which housed small animals such as chickens, geese, guineas and peacocks,

Several, but not all, of the animals perished due to smoke and heat.

An incubator light inside the animal portion of the barn is believed to have caused the fire, Waterloo Fire Chief Brett Wiegand said.

A total of 28 firefighters responded to the March 11 blaze. The Waterloo Fire Department was on scene for 4.5 hours, Wiegand said.

“It took awhile to get (the fire) out because the roof was collapsing on us,” Wiegand said.

To make matters worse, the WFD returned to the winery about 4:45 a.m. Monday, as the same barn was again fully engulfed in flames.

Nobbe said he had been battling hot spots at the barn since Thursday, but everything seemed OK as of Sunday evening.

Overnight, however, the fire flared up again as flames estimated at 50 to 60 feet high were seen shooting from the structure.

Nobbe said a passing motorist noticed the flames and knocked on the door to his home, which is located just 50 feet or so from the barn.

“What it didn’t get the first time, it got this time,” Nobbe said late Monday.

The first fire had done most of the damage, but a large air compressor that had not yet been removed from the barn was lost in the second blaze.

“The unburned portion of that shed that was remaining has now burned,” Wiegand told the Republic-Times. “There was no electric going to the building, so most likely the source of (Monday’s) fire was some remaining embers from the original fire.”

The entire building can now be considered a complete loss, Wiegand said, with the exception of any items Nobbe was able to remove following the original fire.

After an insurance team has completed its investigation into the fire, Nobbe said he plans to have a demolition crew take down what’s left of the burned-out barn.

Workers at the winery were in the process of bottling the 2014 wine harvest and had about 30 percent of it already bottled, Nobbe said.

All product stored in the winery’s tanks and barrels was destroyed, Nobbe said. It is hoped that wine previously stored in the cellar will help out in the short term.

The winery, which opened in 1997, offers 42 types of wine from a vineyard on the property that contains about 4,000 plants that are pruned by hand.

Nobbe praised the efforts of firefighters for their quick response, professional conduct and strong work ethic in dealing with the fires.

“I’m thankful for all they did,” he said.

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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.
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