The spate of wildfires that ripped through prime grape-growing regions in Sonoma and Napa counties early Monday destroyed some wineries, charred acres of vineyards and threw another wrench into an already challenging harvest season.
Most significantly, the Tubbs Fire that engulfed the Fountaingrove area destroyed all the buildings on the 156-acre estate of the Paradise Ridge Winery, said owner Rene Byck. All of its products on site also were destroyed, a significant loss for a business where 90 percent of its sales are made directly to consumers.
The vineyards, however, did not appear to be significantly harmed, Byck said.
The winery has carved out a reputation as prominent wedding destination with its events center overlooking the Russian River Valley. It employs about 35 workers.
“We are more concerned about our employees’ losses and their potential loss of employment,” said Byck, who vowed to rebuild.
In Napa County, the Signorello Estate Winery along the Silverado Trail was gutted, according to photos taken from the fire scene. Firefighters on Monday battled a blaze in the mountainous Atlas Peak wine region, home to many premium vineyards.
While TV news video showed a charred sign for the William Hill Estate Winery in Napa, a spokesman said the winery “sustained only minor cosmetic and landscaping damage, in addition to minimal vineyard damage.”
On Tuesday afternoon the Associated Press reported that The Napa Valley Vintners trade association reported that at least four wineries belonging to members suffered “total or very significant losses.” It also reported at least nine others reported damage to wineries or surrounding vineyards.
The organization emphasized that it had not heard from all members, especially those in the most vulnerable parts of the valley.
The oldest family-run winery in California survived Monday night. But operators were anxious to assess some crops.
The trade group said 90 percent of grapes had already been picked, with most of the remaining crop thick-skinned cabernet sauvignon grapes not expected to be effected by the smoke.
Over at the Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma, Bundschu family members were warily watching the blaze that moved down from Arrowhead Mountain and had already torched some vineyards on their 256-acre estate, said Katie Bundschu, vice president of marketing and sales.
Her parents’ house along Napa Road had burned down, but Bundschu said her family members remained at the winery to help keep guard even though they realized there was little they could do. The estate has been in the Bundschu family for almost 160 years, making it the state’s oldest continuously owned family winery.
“This is our livelihood,” Bundschu said. “We aren’t just about to abandon yet.”
Wineries along Highway 12 near Kenwood did not appear to suffer much damage on Monday. A spokesman for Treasury Wine Estates, owners of Chateau St. Jean just north of Kenwood, said there was little damage to the winery. The winery last year shipped all of its winemaking production to its sister Beringer Winery in St. Helena.
“At this stage, there is limited damage to our infrastructures and sites, however the fires are ongoing and we still have limited access to all of our different assets,” said Treasury Wine spokesman Brenton Dodd in a statement. “The majority of our vineyards and wineries are not in the direct fire zones.”
This story originally appeared in the Press Democrat