Winemakers and vintners report on the status of wineries, vineyards and homes, while the wildfires continue to burn
Vintners across Northern California are working to keep their families and staff safe, while also hoping to get back to their wineries and vineyards. Here are reports from wineries across the region. Check back for updates.
UPDATED Oct. 11, 2:00 p.m. PST
• A houseguest woke Tom and Kerry Eddy of Tom Eddy Winery Sunday night after spotting flames on a ridge near their 22-acre property that sits on the Knights Valley and Calistoga border. Grabbing what they could, the Eddys evacuated to a volunteer fire department and watched from a nearby vineyard as the fire shifted toward their winery. They feared the worst.
On Monday they returned home to find the house and crushpad still standing. But the winds shifted again on Tuesday and they thought for sure the winery was gone. “All our neighbors lost their entire homes. But once again, we were spared,” said Kerry. “Our entire property is scorched, but we are feeling like a miracle happened. Of course, the game’s not over and nature may have something more up her sleeve.”
• Lagier Meredith’s Carole Meredith confirmed she evacuated from her home and vineyard on Mt. Veeder. “We left at about 4 p.m. on Tuesday, shortly before the mandatory evacuation order. Police went to every house to get people out,” she said, adding that the grapes were all in and her winery was safe for now, located on the valley floor.
“This is a harrowing experience,” she said. “Wish I could just fast-forward a few days and know whether our place survived. Our property is both our home and our business, so it’s everything.”
• John Kongsgaard reports that he and his son Alex evacuated their Atlas Peak property on Monday, but he has learned that Kongsgaard’s winery and his house are OK.
• The staff at Altamura, located high in Napa’s Wooden Valley, report that they and the winery are safe right now.
• Stags Leap District was one of the hardest-hit areas. “In terms of vineyards, they don’t burn as one would think,” said Nancy Bialek, executive director of the Stags Leap District Association. “We estimate that around 70 percent of the grapes in the district had already been harvested. There are several vintners who had not fully completed harvest that will lose their grapes as ash flavor absorbs.”
While vintners still don’t have access to their properties, it’s hard to assess the damage. “As of now we know that one winery in the Stags Leap District sustained damage and that was Stags’ Leap Winery, where it was reported that a building burned,” said Bialek. “We don’t know the extent of their damage or if the historic Manor House was unscathed, but we are hopeful that the flames didn’t come down the palisades that far. Several homes in the higher elevation of the Stags Leap District were destroyed; residents were evacuated looking at a frightening wall of fire.”
Bialek points out that Napa vintners have dealt with “short” vintages before, and this is probably not enough to affect pricing. “Now it’s just a matter of access to check on facilities and ongoing fermentation, and I know our vintners are anxious to do that,” she added.
• Regusci’s Darcy Dellera reports that the Stags Leap District winery is safe as of Tuesday. “There is, however, extreme danger to many areas of the property and surrounding area,” she added.
UPDATED Oct. 10, 5 p.m. PST
• Napa’s White Rock Vineyards, family-owned, founded in 1870 and located near Soda Springs, has been destroyed.
• Treasury Wine Estates, which owns several California wineries including Beaulieu Vineyard, Beringer, Chateau St. Jean, Sterling and Stags’ Leap Winery, issued a statement: “At this stage, TWE confirms that the majority of our vintage has been picked—there remains just over 10 percent of our total vintage to be picked in Napa/Sonoma. Based on what we currently know, there is limited damage to TWE’s infrastructures and sites, however, the fires are ongoing and TWE still has limited access to all of its assets in the region. The majority of TWE’s vineyards and wineries are not presently in the direct fire zones.”
• Fires destroyed many homes in the Coombsville district of Napa, but so far no reported vineyards or wineries. Palmaz Winery stated on Facebook, “By the grace of God, after 26 straight hours of fighting fires and protecting our home, vineyard and winery, we were able to harvest.”
• Jimmy Kawalek, president of the Coombsville Vintners and Growers says the information so far is “spotty” but believes most wineries fared well. He also reports Warren Winiarski’s Arcadia Vineyard is safe, even though homes around it were destroyed.
• Also in Coombsville, Favia’s Annie Favia-Erickson reports, “We left our property last night again, twice in the last 48 hours, when the fire in the ridges above us [Green Valley Road and Skyline Park] got much stronger. We could see very high flames and black smoke, probably structure fires. We just got back this morning (to do pump-overs, believe it or not) and our house/winery was spared.”
• Julien Fayard, winemaker for Azur and Purlieu, has a winery in Coombsville called Covert that was spared. “I moved the family to Palo Alto and worked on securing the winery,” he said. “We will see how grapes are doing and assess consequence on finished wines.”
UPDATED Oct. 11, 12:00 p.m. PST
• Kenwood vintners are still trying to assess the damage, but some are unable to return to their wineries due to road closures and evacuations. The Napa County Sheriff’s Office, which has set up a text line for fire information, has told residents: “Absolutely no entry into evacuated areas will be allowed while evacuations are still being enforced. Please cooperate with first responders.”
• Michael Muscardini of Muscardini Cellars says his marketing manager was able to survey the neighborhood. “She said it looked like a hurricane went through [Kenwood] but our building is still standing, as well as [those of] a few others,” he said, noting that Café Citti had weathered the destruction. But the area still doesn’t have electricity. Muscardini hopes that the police will let people back in by this weekend since he still has grapes to harvest.
• Pernod Ricard issued a statement on their Kenwood Winery: “All of our employees and their families are believed to be safe, and at this stage our winery has sustained only minor damage, with some trees down on the property.”
• Sonoma’s newest appellation, the Fountaingrove District, was in the path of the Tubbs fire as it swept toward Santa Rosa. Bordering the city to the northeast and Sonoma Valley to the south, the appellation is home to 100 small vineyards but only a handful of wineries. “I have received status reports from all our board members and about a dozen vineyard owners,” said Mary Lou Marek, president of the Fountaingrove District Winegrowers Association. “All are safe and evacuated, but several have confirmed or believe they have lost homes and vineyards.”
Her own Antonina’s Vineyard and home on Calistoga Road survived. “One positive note is that upwards of 80 percent of our grapes have been picked, so we should have minimal impact from the fires on our 2017 harvest,” she says.
UPDATED Oct. 11, 7:34 a.m. PST
• Jackson Family Wines put out a statement Tuesday from president Rick Tigner: “Today, we have suspended all farming and harvest activities in the North Coast while we focus on our people. The main office is working with limited staffing and electrical power to meet basic operational needs.” He added that there appears to be no damage to any of the facilities but they are monitoring the situation closely.
UPDATED Oct. 10, 1 p.m. PST
• Staff at Gundlach Bundschu, at the southern end of Sonoma, report on social media that parts of the winery buildings suffered some damage but remain intact, however, the family lost its house on the property.
• Scribe Winery, on the southeastern side of Sonoma, was spared from the flames.
• Buena Vista Winery, on the eastern side of Sonoma, was safe as of Tuesday morning. “We were able to visit Buena Vista this morning and we are pleased to report that Buena Vista Winery appears to have been spared any damage from the fires even as they are nearby,” said Patrick Egan. “We are remaining focused on health and safety of our employees and families, but are grateful that the winery has been saved.”
• Staff at Amapola Creek, on the northern side of Sonoma, report that they are OK.
• Staff at Chateau St. Jean report some property damage in Kenwood, but contrary to some earlier reports, the winery is OK.
• Matt Steel, general manager at Landmark Vineyards in Kenwood, said, “Thankfully, all our employees are accounted for and safe. Our Sonoma Valley and Hop Kiln locations have survived without sustaining any significant damage, but both locations will remain closed for the time being.”
• Staff at Kunde in Kenwood report that they are OK.
• Staff at St. Francis Winery in Santa Rosa posted on social media on Tuesday that their winery is OK. Flames had been near the vineyards.
• Francis Ford Coppola Winery and Virginia Dare Winery, both located in Geyserville, released a statement Tuesday: “The mass destruction is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Currently, the Coppola properties in Sonoma County—Francis Ford Coppola Winery and Virginia Dare Winery—have not been affected, but many of our employees have been evacuated and some of our colleagues have lost [their] homes.”