The area’s wine industry is struggling to gauge the extent of the damage from the Sunday night fires that were still burning on Tuesday.
By Tuesday morning, multiple wineries were reported damaged or destroyed and large swaths of vineyard have likely also been burned, but details were limited as a full measure of the devastation continued to take shape.
In an update, the Napa Valley Vintners said, “It is too early to estimate the economic impact of the fires on the Napa Valley wine industry.” The trade group noted, however, that the majority of the region’s grapes had been harvested before the fires began.
But as a thick mask of smoke enveloped the valley on Tuesday morning, smoke taint was all but certain to affect the grapes that had yet to be picked, thus tarnishing the quality of the wines that would ultimately be made from them.
Dr. Kaan Kurtural, assistant cooperative extension specialist with UC Davis, said Tuesday, “Anything left hanging is going to have smoke taint,” which imparts unpleasant flavors in the finished wines and is difficult to blend out.
Having reached out to all of their more than 500 members on Monday, the Vintners had heard from more than 100 by Tuesday morning. Communication was hampered by valley-wide power outages and unreliable cell service.
At least four of the Vintners’ members reported the fire had caused total or very significant losses to their physical wineries. Signorello Estate on Silverado Trail was reported destroyed by the Atlas Peak fire on Monday, while initial reports put nearby James Cole and Darioush wineries among those that had been damaged.
By Tuesday, nine of the group’s members reported their wineries, vineyards or other buildings on their properties had been damaged. The group said it had not yet heard from several of its members in the most at-risk areas along Silverado Trail, in Calistoga and in the areas of Partirck and Henry roads and Mount Veeder.
In an email Tuesday, a representative of Treasury Wine Estates, owner of the reportedly damaged Stag’s Leap Winery, wrote that the company was unsure as to how much damage some of its sites had sustained, “as the team are still working on gaining access to be able to assess accurately.”
Several vintners in the affected areas had taken to social media by Tuesday to provide updates. Chimney Rock Winery, located roughly one mile north of Signorello on Silverado Trail, was inaccessible and its condition unknown, owner Bill Terlato reported in a Facebook post. William Hill Estate, set in the midst of the Atlas Peak fire area, also took to Facebook, reporting it had sustained only minimal damage to its vineyards.
In Calistoga, Chateau Montelena, located on Tubbs Lane, reported that the winery was untouched by the nearby Tubbs Fire, but that many of its employees had been evacuated and it would remain closed on Tuesday.
In Carneros, Artesa Vineyards and Winery reported that the Partrick Road Fire had reached its vineyards off of Henry Road, but not the winery. A dramatic video posted by Fontanella Family Winery on Tuesday showed firefighters battling a large fire near structures at the winery’s Partrick Road location. Fontanella’s post said firefighters had saved the winery and the house on the property.
Though the height of the harvest season has passed, crews for companies like Renteria Vineyard Management were still picking grapes when the fires began Sunday night. Reached by phone late Monday, owner Oscar Renteria said “Everybody’s accounted for.”
“We fired up last night at midnight and then we got called from the foreman that they could see flames,” Renteria said. As of Monday evening, employees were being told not to come to work, he said, “and most likely not tomorrow either.”
Renteria and his family were hosting several families of friends and company employees who had been displaced by the fires. His father, company founder Salvador Renteria, was among those who evacuated from the Atlas Peak area early Monday morning.
Also requiring evacuation in the pre-dawn hours was Esteban Llamas, vineyard manager at Stagecoach Vineyard near the Atlas Peak area. Llamas, his wife and his daughter, who all live at the Stagecoach property on Soda Canyon Road, were airlifted out of the area around 4 a.m. Monday morning, according to the vineyard’s former owner, Dr. Jan Krupp.
Speaking by phone Monday afternoon, Krupp said his winery on Hardman Avenue, near William Hill Estate, had survived the Atlas Peak fire though the fate of the storied Stagecoach Vineyard was still unknown. But, Krupp stressed, “Everyone I know is safe, which is the main thing.”