Napa and Sonoma Wildfires Destroy Wineries, Bars and Hotels with Many Others Threatened
Mary Orlin | East Bay Times | October 10, 2017 1:00am
Oct. 10--Updated Tuesday 9:10 a.m. Alison deGrassi of Visit Mendocino confirmed that two Redwood Valley wineries were destroyed by the fires -- Frey Winery and Oster Wine Cellars, owned by Kenny and Teresa Oster. The vineyards at Masut Vineyard and Winery in Redwood Valley also reportedly burned, deGrassi said, but she had yet to confirm that report.
Updated Monday 10 p.m. Pete Hoffmann, owner of Napa's Aum Cellars, reported Monday night that his winery survived the fire. On Facebook, Hoffmann posted, "Sheep, chickens, vineyards, home and winery are all good. Many neighbors houses burned to the ground. No power and no way to get up there to do punch downs, but we're thankful yet saddened for the level of destruction around our community and state."
Also dodging a close call was Napa's Fontanella Family Winery, which posted on Facebook that "Engine Number 7 saved our winery and house. Our property was the front line for fighting the fire up on Partrick Road."
Updated Monday 8:23 p.m. One of Napa's oldest wineries, White Rock Vineyards confirmed it lost its family-owned winery in the fire. White Rock sat west of Soda Canyon Road, which was one of the worst hit areas. The winery has been owned by the Vandendriessche Family since 1870, according to its website.
The fast moving fire and difficulty in reaching the affected areas have led to erroneous reports that some wineries were heavily damaged or destroyed. Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers, noted in a statement how fluid the situation remained on Monday. "At this time, we are still assessing the specific damage to Sonoma County vineyards as well as to our communities and neighbors. Reports of fire damage to wineries, businesses and homes continues to grow. While 90 percent of the winegrapes have been harvested, there were still grapes in the vineyards that were scheduled to be picked in the next ten days. At this time we have no information on specific crop damage."
Updated Monday 4:15 p.m. While there have been numerous reports that Napa Valley Stag's Leap District winery Darioush had burned during the Atlas fire, according to the winery's Alessandra Murillo in an email update, "At this time, thankfully, the winery is safe; we experienced some landscape and vineyard damage but the winery structure is sound."
Updated Monday 4 p.m. Video footage that appeared to show William Hill Estate Winery burning was in fact capturing the burning of only the estate entrance sign and landscape around the winery. William Will Estate posted on Facebook in the afternoon that, "we have confirmed that the winery buildings are intact. William Hill sustained only minor cosmetic and landscaping damage, in addition to minimal vineyard damage."
The Culinary Institute of America also released a statement that staff, students and property were safe at CIA's Greystone campus in St. Helena and the CIA at Copia in Napa. However, both locations were experiencing power outages and disruption of cell phone service, the CIA reported.
Updated Monday 3:10 p.m. The Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa, home to spectacular views and world class outdoor sculpture garden, has burned to the ground, according to posts on the winery's Facebook page.
Meanwhile, Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa lost the east end of its facility and classrooms but reported only minimal damage to the main theater.
Updated Monday 2:10 p.m.: More wineries have burned as a result of the Wine Country fires, including Nicholson Ranch in Sonoma and Frey Vineyards, a pioneer in organic and biodynamic wines, in Mendocino County's Redwood Valley. Other famous Wine Country businesses, including the Michelin 3-starred French Laundry restaurant, are closed due to fire related power outages. In Yountville, The Poetry Inn on the Silverado Trail in Napa's Stag's Leap District, owned by vintner Cliff Lede, who also owns the nearby Cliff Lede Vineyards, has been surrounded by flames. And, in Sonoma, the historic Stornetta Dairy on Highway 12 is also gone. A little bit of good news: Kunde Family Winery's Jeff Kunde says none of the Kenwood winery buildings have caught fire.
Dozens of early Monday morning fires erupted across Northern California's premier wine country, spreading quickly, fueled by high wind gusts. Residents evacuated at a moment's notice and countless homes and businesses burned, among them many well-known wineries, restaurants and hotels.
Several wineries in Napa's Stag's Leap District, one of the valley's premier cabernet sauvignon growing regions, have burned in the Atlas Fire, including Signorello Estates. NBC News showed video footage of the William Hill Estate Winery entrance sign being consumed by flames. Areas under threat from the fires stretch from Northern Napa Valley, near Calistoga to Southern Napa along the Silverado Trail and Soda Canyon Road.
In Sonoma County, the fire reportedly has destroyed Willi's Wine Bar, The Fountaingrove Inn and the Hilton Wine Country Hotel in Santa Rosa. In Glen Ellen and Kenwood, residents have reported that Chateau St. Jean and a local lavender field are gone. Locals also report that fires are burning at Kenwood winery, while others note fire fighting efforts to try to save B.R. Cohn. The fire also appears to be close to Benziger winery.
A blaze on a Sonoma Valley ridge threatens nearby wineries, including Scribe and Gundlach Bundschu. The nearby Moon Mountain district, where wineries and vineyards are on steep, remote hillsides, are also at risk.
A representative at the Charles M. Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa said employees evacuated after the museum lost power and the fire closed in, but at present, the museum is safe. Wildlife preserve Safari West, which is in the Mayacamas Mountains between Napa and Sonoma, posted on Facebook, "While the situation remains dynamic and very dangerous, we have received word that the Safari West Wildlife Preserve appears to have weathered the worst of this firestorm. The situation is still very much active and could take a turn, but for the moment, it looks like our preserve and our animals are OK."
Meanwhile, social media posts highlighted an eerie images of flames on the ridge behind Chimney Rock Winery in Napa and flames burning in brush behind the Stag's Leap Winery. The Atlas Peak fire forced the evacuation of Silverado Resort and Spa on Sunday night, just hours after the Safeway Open on the resort's north golf course.
Professional photographer George Rose documented on Facebook as flames raged through the night and daybreak, showing walls of fire on ridges and burning structures.
While the Tubbs Fire has burned at least 35,000 acres in Sonoma and the Atlas Fire has burned up to 12,000 acres in Napa, there are no reports yet about the number of vineyard acres that may have or are burning. And direct fire isn't the only risk; depending on the duration and intensity of the flames, smoke taint in the remaining grapes on the vines may be become an issue.
Until the fire, the 2017 grape harvest had been progressing along, despite a week-long heat wave in early September that had vintners scrambling to get early ripening varieties picked off the vine as fruit sugar levels spiked and grapes ripened seemingly overnight. Relief came with cooler temperatures, and since then, harvest continued at a fairly normal clip, but now questions remain about the extent of damage the fires will have on Northern California's largest wine region.
Jessica Yadegaran and Linda Zavoral contributed to this report.