Founded in 1839, the Hudson Valley facility is the oldest continuously operated winery in the United States. It managed to survive Prohibition by producing sacramental wine for churches.
Investigators believe that the fire, which began the night of Jan. 7, was caused by a mouse chewing through an electrical wire. The blaze spread from the tasting and sales room to the adjacent Grand Monarque Hall, which dates back to 1893 and has been used as a catering facility. None of the winery's other historic buildings were damaged, and the hall's stone walls were left standing.
"We have a very specific goal--to be in full business by spring of this year," said Cesar Baeza, co-owner and winemaster. "It's a big responsibility to keep this landmark for the future, and we are determined to do that." Baeza said he hopes that the historic hall will be restored to its original appearance by 2000 and the tasting room will be rebuilt by April. In the meantime, Brotherhood has set up a small temporary tasting and sales room in its offices. Tours of the winery, located in Washingtonville, are scheduled to start up again in April.
"Our production facility was unaffected, so we are looking at the bright side," said Baeza. The fire did not damage the wine storage area or bottling lines, and Brotherhood has continued to produce and ship its wines, as well as products for other companies. Just days after the fire, Baeza produced an ice wine.
Brotherhood releases 19 types of wines, including Chardonnay, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, a late-harvest Riesling, sparkling wine and seasonal flavored wines. The winery, which has changed ownership three times in its history, is currently operated by a group of investors who purchased it in 1987.
Historic New York Winery Burns