Fairwinds Estate Winery in Court With Insurance Company
September 10, 2021
A Napa Valley winery that burned to the ground in the Glass Fire in 2020 is in court with one of its insurance companies over the insurer’s refusal to pay about $2 million, according to court records.
The winery, which has estimated the losses from the Glass Fire at more than $15 million, plans to rebuild at its property off the Silverado Trail near Calistoga, one its owners, Anthony Zabit, said Thursday. An architect has been selected.
The winery, which produced 65,000 cases of wine a year and lost 20,000 cases in 2020, remains in business. It plans to produce 40,000 cases of wine this year, Zabit said.
In the meantime, the legal fight continues.
Fairwinds Estate Winery, which lost its main building and tasting room near Calistoga on Sept. 27, was insured by two separate insurance policies, according to court filings.
Fairwinds’ main insurance carrier, Beazley Insurance Services, paid the maximum under the policy – or $8.31 million, according to court records.
However, Kinsale Insurance Co., which had sold the winery an “excess policy” – a policy purchased for an additional coverage for up to $2.06 million – denied the claim filed by the winery, according to court records.
In court filings, the winery stated it was insured for $10.37 million - $8.31 million by Beazley Insurance Services and another $2.01 million by Kinsale.
But in August, Arkansas-based Kinsale filed a federal complaint against Fairwinds after the winery threatened to sue, according to court records.
Among other goals, Kinsale sought a court order stating the winery “has no obligation to make any payment to Fairwinds because the Kinsale excess policy has not been implicated,” according to the federal lawsuit.
On Thursday, Fairwinds filed its own lawsuit against Kinsale and other companies associated with the excess policy, this time in Napa County Superior Court, according to court records.
“Fairwinds’ primary insurer has paid the limits on Fairwinds’ primary insurance policy such that the primary policy is now exhausted and the Kinsale Excess Policy is triggered,” the winery’s attorneys stated in the complaint filed in Napa.
The winery’s complaint seeks a court order prohibiting Kinsale from denying the winery’s “full blanket coverage” in the amount of $2.06 million, according to the winery’s lawsuit. Also named as defendants are broker Malloy Imrie and Vasconi Insurance Services LLC and agent CRC Insurance Services.
Also on Thursday, Fairwinds filed a motion in federal court to have Kinsale’s complaint dismissed – or have at least have that case stayed until Fairwinds’ lawsuit in state court is resolved, according to the court filing.
Kinsale claimed in its federal lawsuit that the winery’s total insurable value had been listed at $4.05 million, according to the complaint.
The company refused to pay the winery’s claim after the winery’s primary insurance policy paid $8.31 million, according to the federal complaint. That was “well above the total insurable value for the main winery building and tasting room,” Kinsale said in its complaint filed in August in U.S. District Court for Northern California.
The winery had listed the winery building at $1.8 million; the business at $1.5 million; outside equipment at $100,000; the tasting room at $1.02 million and the business personal property at $100,000, the insurance company stated in its complaint.
The fire roared through the winery’s property during the night of Sept. 27, 2020.
The winery’s main building on the Silverado Trail housed storage and fermentation tanks as wine barrels and a bottling line, offices and other facilities. Also lost was a new optical sorter, Zabit said.
Zabit praised the wine industry’s support after the fire, noting the employees were able crush 200 tons of fruit at St. Supery Estate Vineyards and Winery only five days after the main facilities were lost to the fire.
The winery, which now owns a warehouse facility in Calistoga, where it now operates its business, is now in the middle of crush.