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Oct. 20, 3:30 p.m. PST: California Fires—Damage Updates from Wineries

Winemakers and vintners report on the status of wineries, vineyards and homes, while the wildfires continue to burn
Photo by: Karl Mondon/ Bay Area News Group
Some structures of Chateau St. Jean were damaged, but the winery survived.

Posted: October 11, 2017

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.

Napa (Updated Oct. 20, 3:30 p.m. PST)
Sonoma (Updated Oct. 12, 10 a.m. PST)
Carneros (Updated Oct. 11, 2 p.m. PST
Mendocino (Updated Oct. 20, 3:30 p.m. PST)


Napa

UPDATED Oct. 20, 3:30 p.m. PST

• The Atlas fire severely damaged Sill Family Vineyards. Winemaker and owner Igor Sill told Wine Spectator in an email Friday that his winery, including all of the equipment and a guesthouse, were incinerated, but his vineyards survived. In 2016, Sill purchased the former Ardente Estate Winery, including more than 24 acres planted on Atlas Peak. The family also owns a vineyard in St. Helena.

UPDATED Oct. 18

• The Atlas fire impacted the small Wild Horse Valley appellation east of Coombsville, along the border of Solano County. David Mahaffy of Heron Vineyard and Winery told Wine Spectator that the Atlas fire reached his vineyards Oct. 9. He helped battle flames as they approached his neighbor’s property, but had to evacuate. The fire destroyed a storage building on his property that housed 100 cases of wine. Thankfully, the majority of his wines are stored offsite.

UPDATED Oct. 16, 10 a.m. PST

• The Paramenter family, owners of VinRoc winery on Atlas Peak Road, confirmed that the winery's main house and guesthouse were destroyed, as well as equipment sheds and a barn. “The good news is that the cave was not damaged and the wine barrels inside the cave weren’t harmed," the family said in a statement. "The vineyard was only partially damaged. Most of our case goods are sitting in a warehouse far from the fire. So while we had some loss, VinRoc is alive and well.”

UPDATED Oct. 15, 12 p.m. PST

• On Monday, Oct. 9, the fires claimed part of Pulido-Walker’s estate on the southern edge of the Mount Veeder appellation. In a statement sent to Wine Spectator, proprietors Donna Walker and Mark Pulido said their 15-acre vineyard appears to have only suffered partial damage, but the flames destroyed their home and gardens. “Fortunately, our family and the Pulido-Walker team are all safe,” the statement reads. “We feel blessed as others have suffered much greater losses.”

Walker and Pulido are partners in Mending Wall winery in St. Helena, where their wines are produced. The fires are not threatening that area at this time, and the couple reports that their 2017 harvest is complete with the wines aging in barrel. The warehouse where Pulido-Walker’s wines are stored is also safe. The fires have not impacted the two other vineyards from which they source grapes: Panek Vineyard in St. Helena and Melanson Vineyard on Pritchard Hill. The couple says they plan to rebuild and are making a substantial contribution to the Community Foundation of Napa Valley relief fund that is helping local nonprofits aiding fire victims.

UPDATED Oct. 14

• As the Nuns fire crossed from Sonoma County in Napa County over Mount Veeder earlier in the week, it tore through Segassia Vineyard’s 15-acre vineyard and cellar on the top of the mountain. “Fingers crossed, but I’m not optimistic that anything is left,” said owner Andrew Cates on Oct. 14. He had to evacuate, but a neighbor across the street had a security camera that recorded the flames as they rushed through his vineyard on the night of Oct. 10. “It’s been extremely sad.”

Cates sells his grapes to Nicholson Jones and previously to Hall Winery, whose Segassia Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon has scored 95 points and higher. Cates purchased the vineyard in 2012 and had just replanted two blocks of vines six weeks before the fires struck. “I’m going to have to replant a lot more vines,” he said. He also lost verticals of Segassia wines dating back to 2006. But Cates isn’t giving up. “It’s a special place, and my plan is to rebuild,” he says.

UPDATED Oct. 12, 2 p.m. PST

• Roy Estate is the latest winery to be confirmed as destroyed by the Atlas fire. Shirley Roy founded Roy Estate with her late husband in 1999, and Helen Turley was the founding winemaker, but Philippe Melka took over winemaking reins in 2005. The brand is known for their Cabernet Sauvignon and Proprietary Blend, both made from estate-grown grapes on their 17-acre vineyard, south of the Stags Leap District.

"Roy Estate was completely devastated by the Atlas fire," said Kathryn Reynolds of Roy.  "We lost the main house, the guest cottage and the barn. All completely rubble. The vineyards seem to have remained untouched thankfully. None of the Roy Estate staff was harmed and thankfully remain safe."

• Jericho Canyon, northeast of Calistoga, was evacuated Wednesday night after winds began spreading the Tubbs fire in that direction. "We've all safely evacuated the canyon as of [Tuesday] morning, said Tara Katrina Hole, director of sales and marketing, via email. "Up until about now, we've been able to access security cameras remotely, which meant the winery (and likely the rest of Calistoga) was still safe. Our security cameras have just gone dark and we are hoping for the best."

"We saw fires on Mt. St. Helena and the ridge line [Tuesday] night that appeared to be growing," she added. "First responders were bombing with flame retardant and trying to cut a fire break."

• Hall Wines has two wineries in Napa Valley, which both appear safe. But they also own multiple vineyards in the valley, some of which lie in the fire zone. "As we speak, both the St. Helena and Rutherford wineries were operating, but the tasting rooms remain closed," said Mike Reynolds, Hall president. "Many of our employees have been evacuated and some have lost their homes and others are uncertain about the status of their homes. We are making that the priority. We have vineyards throughout the valley and we are doing our best to assess any damage on a vineyard-by-vineyard basis. We have vineyards in 13 of the 16 Napa appellations, so this is complicated. In many cases, the roads are closed [and] we cannot access the vineyards. This is too new to assess the overall damage."

• Aaron Pott of Pott Wines owns a house and vineyard on Mt. Veeder. His family evacuated for San Francisco, while he has slept in his winery on the valley floor. "My grapes are in but I think many were not so lucky," he said. "We fear our house is gone. I don't care about that really— a good way to get rid of our rodent problem. But I wouldn't want to lose the vineyard."

• Mayacamas is also on Mt. Veeder. Winemaker Andy Erickson and estate manager Jimmy Hayes stayed until Tuesday. "Don't have any sense of how much damage, if there has been any," said Hayes. "We left the property around 2 p.m. yesterday and haven't been able to go back in since. We have been told that there was a small amount of fire on the property around 4 p.m. down below the winery—few hundred yards. Don't know how much fire was behind it, and where it went or what it did. Other reports about parts of Mt. Veeder are pretty bad. But our whole team is out and safe."

• The Hess Collection is another Mt. Veeder winery that had to be closed after evacuation orders went out late Tuesday night. "As far as we know Hess winery is still intact," said Nicole Carter, chief marketing office. "We are still operational at our American Canyon winery but will not harvest today in the best interest of the health of our vineyard crews."

UPDATED Oct. 11, 2 p.m. PST

• Patland Vineyards, founded by Henry and Olga Patland, has been destroyed in the Atlas fire. The Patlands specialized in red wines made from their estate vineyard and nearby Stagecoach Vineyard.

Winemaker Jay Buoncristiani confirmed the news. "The Patlands’ estate, perched at 1,500 feet above Soda Canyon Road, was wiped out by the fierce Atlas fire early on Sunday night," Buoncristiani told Wine Spectator. "I feel so badly for their loss. They are like family to me, but they are handling it amazingly well, and feel like I do: As long as lives are safe, the rest is replaceable, and things could have been far worse. In fact, Michael Patland saved his neighbor’s life by waking him up and getting him out of his home, which was toasted within a short time after escaping."

As far as the Stagecoach Vineyard, no one can get close to assess the damage. Buoncristiani also can't get access to the Caves at Soda Canyon, where his wines are fermenting. "We have a lot in barrel already, but I also currently have at least seven fermentations that are running wild in the Caves, and I am so eager to get in there and check on their status and I’m prepared for the challenge to bring them home to dryness safely."

• 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."

Stuart Palley via ZUMA Wire
Flames burn on the ridges above Napa vineyards.

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."

Sonoma

Carlos Avila Gonzalez/San Francisco Chronicle/Polaris
A spared vineyard in Glen Ellen

UPDATED Oct. 12, 10 a.m. PST

• The flames of the Nuns fire roared through Kenwood and Glen Ellen, but Kunde is safe. "We're doing fine for now," said Marcia Mickelson Kunde. "The winery is in good shape. We invested in a very large generator a while back. Our winemaker is in there monitoring things."

It's less clear whether the vineyards were unscathed. "Based on the fire's location, we'll probably lose the top of the estate, but we just don't know where the winds are going to blow," Kunde said. The events of recent days have been exhausting. "I've lived here all my life and never experienced anything like this. It's overwhelming. There's so much loss. We live in Bennett Valley and had to evacuate [Tuesday] at 3 p.m., the fire was coming right at our house—we could see it coming—but there just aren't enough services to protect your home, so my husband stayed behind. Then the wind shifted, and we dodged a bullet."

• Knight's Valley lies right where Sonoma meets Napa Valley near Calistoga. The Tubbs fire was not far off Sunday night and was heading back that way on Wednesday night. Knights Bridge winery escaped Sunday's inferno, but was not out of the woods yet. "Physically, everyone here is safe and sound," said Darlyne Miller, national brand manager. "Owner Jim Bailey and our estate manager were part of a mandatory evacuation on Sunday night and, at this point, have not been allowed back to the estate. It is our understanding that, as of Wednesday morning the residence and our vineyard had not sustained damage. However, as of 2 p.m., the fire was changing direction and coming up the back side, headed to the ridge line at the top of the hill, above our property."

• Corey Beck, president and director of winemaking for Francis Ford Coppola Winery and Virginia Dare Winery, shared this video of the Pocket fire in Geyserville, taken Wednesday afternoon.

UPDATED Oct. 11, 12 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 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."

Eric Risberg/AP Photo
A burned property in Sonoma County

• Kent Humphrey of Eric Kent winery in Windsor reports that his family is safe, "But it was close." Humphrey lives in the Windrose area of Santa Rosa, not far from John Ash & Co. "We had to abandon our car and escape on foot. Very scary stuff. Vineyards, winery and warehouse are all safe, but the house, truck, car and office are all gone. Our entire neighborhood is completely gone."

• David Jeffrey, owner and winemaker at Calluna Vineyards in Windsor, reported, "We are safe and the vineyard is still intact. But the fires are officially at 0 percent containment, and we cannot get to our winery site, so this is not over."

Carneros

UPDATED Oct. 11, 2 p.m. PST

• Artesa Winery in Carneros reported that the fire reached their property and affected some of their estate vineyards, but the winery itself did not sustain any damage.

UPDATED Oct. 10, 5 p.m. PST

• "Right now, the fires remain in Carneros, and we won't know the impact of the fires until we can assess the damage," said Carla Bosco, Carneros Wine Alliance board chair. "Our two local fire crews, Carneros and Schell-Vista, have been amazing in protecting Carneros, and we are grateful for their diligent work."

UPDATED Oct. 10, 1 p.m. PST

• Staff at Domaine Carneros have reported that they are OK.

Mendocino

UPDATED Oct. 20, 3:30 p.m. PST

According to the Mendocino WineGrowers, the Redwood Valley fire severely damaged Oster Wine Cellar’s winemaking facility.

UPDATED Oct. 12, 10 a.m. PST

• Authorities report that nearly 7,000 people have been evacuated in both Mendocino and Lake Counties, where the Redwood Complex and Sulpher fires have destroyed 340 buildings and are threatening 800 more. In Mendocino, the Redwood and Potter fires had grown to 32,000 acres by Thursday morning.

• Backbone Vineyard & Winery in Redwood Valley has been destroyed. "Our winery burned to the ground along with all our wine made over the past five years," said owner Sattie Clark, in a statement. She and her husband, Eric Kaster, started the winery when they purchased the former Cole Bailey winery and focused on Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. They also lost their vineyard, though Clark said, "We think our house was saved, so we are luckier than many."

• The fire has already claimed Frey Vineyards, and fire crews are keeping a close eye on the weather as they battle fires at Golden Vineyards on the edge of Redwood Valley. Cal Fire reports that the fire is only 5 percent contained.

• According to a statement released by the Mendocino WineGrowers, the fires are only impacting a small percentage of Mendocino's vineyards, with 1,100 acres of vines currently in the fire zone. In Redwood Valley that includes 38 vineyards, with five vineyard properties under threat in Potter Valley. But the extent of the damage is unknown at this time.

Fortunately, many of the grapes have already been picked. "The Mendocino grape harvest is well underway with most of the white varieties already picked, and close to 75 percent of the red varieties harvested," read the statement.

UPDATED Oct. 10, 3 p.m. PST

• Nathan Frey of Frey Vineyards reported Tuesday that his family's winery is gone. "Our winery has burned down, and most of the family homes, though our warehouse is intact," he said. "The homes of many friends and neighbors also burned, and our heart goes out to all of them."

—Reported by Kim Marcus, Aaron Romano, Augustus Weed, MaryAnn Worobiec, James Laube and Tim Fish

Liz Toler
Easton, PA —  October 12, 2017 3:00pm ET
My heart goes out to all the people, families & businesses that have been damaged or destroyed by these horrific wild fires. My thoughts & prayers are & will continue to be with you all over these next several months as you all assess, recover & rebuild.

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