Waterloo winery catches fire twice

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WATERLOO, IL (KTVI) - An Illinois winery is devastated by fire for the second time in less than a week.

Schorr Lake Vineyards in Waterloo caught fire for the first time Wednesday night, then again, early Monday morning.

The fire broke out in the barn, where all the wine is manufactured.

Waterloo Fire Chief Brett Wiegand says it’s unusual for a fire to fully reignite five days later, but the building’s construction posed unusual challenges.  He explains, “He did have a walk-in cooler of sorts, a freezer, and it was heavily insulated, and if it burns and smolders inside the insulation, it could have been a thing where it just eventually took off again.”

Vineyard owner Paul Nobbe is devastated. His wine making started as a hobby decades ago, and he achieved his dream of opening Schorr Lake Vineyards in 1997.  On the weekends, his winery is packed with people, enjoying his different vintages and varietals, all grown on seven acres of vineyards out back.

Nobbe says, “Very sad, because I’m retired, this is my only income right now, so it’s going to definitely slow us down.”

His 2014 wine was fermenting in the barn when the fire broke out.  “It’s pretty much a total loss. We lost all our inventory from the year before, all our equipment was destroyed and the building’s destroyed,” he adds.

It wasn’t just equipment and wine. Nobbe also kept chickens and birds in the barn. Most of them perished.

The fire chief believes a heat lamp for the baby chicks caused the fire.  Wiegand explains, “It’s anything from the wiring in the socket to the lighting itself malfunctioning; any number of things could cause it.”

The winemaker says insurance will cover much, but not all, of the damage.  Once the damage is fully assessed, he’ll knock down the barn and start over.​

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