Atlas Fire

The ground was blackened underneath grapevines at Robert Sinskey Vineyards, 6320 Silverado Trail in Napa, Tuesday afternoon.

Maria Sestito, Register

As the wildfires that have ravaged Napa since Sunday night continued to burn on Wednesday, a tally of the destruction wrought on the local wine industry grew.

Two of the three farmworker housing centers in the valley had been evacuated by Wednesday, while the status of one center located on Silverado Trail near several damaged wineries remained unknown.

The Napa Valley Vintners trade group added to the number of member wineries that have been damaged, bringing the total on Wednesday morning to five physical wineries that had suffered total or very significant losses. The group had received responses from at least 120 of its more than 500 members, but had yet to hear from “about a dozen” of its members in the most at-risk areas near the Atlas Peak, Tubbs and Partrick fires.

Of those who had responded to the group, 11 had reported damage to their vineyards, wineries or other buildings on their properties.

A complete roster of those affected was not immediately available Wednesday, but vintners and wineries in at-risk areas continued to take to social media with updates. Others recounted having to evacuate their homes, like many of the county’s residents.

Mayacamas Vineyards, the historic winery on Lokoya Road in the evacuated Mount Veeder area, wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon that “the winery is safe so far, but we have serious concerns about two wildfires to our West.”

A representative of Segassia Vineyard on Mount Veeder Road reported Wednesday via email that the property’s team had been evacuated and was safe, “…but the fruit remains to dehydrate on the vines, during prime harvest season. Right now, what has not been destroyed will be lost.”

The vineyard provides the cabernet sauvignon grapes for the acclaimed Segassia Vineyard cabernet from HALL wines.

Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, 94, said he was awakened at his home in the northeast hills of Calistoga in the middle of Sunday night and told he had to evacuate. “I had never experienced anything like this,” said the veteran vintner, who fled Communist Yugoslavia in the 1950s before making his way to Napa Valley in 1958 to make wine.

Grgich went to the Victorian house he owns in Yountville, but on Wednesday morning he and his companion were driving farther south to escape the smoke in the resort town. “It is too hard on my old lungs,” Grgich said, adding that he still did not know if the house he built on a hillside in Calistoga had survived the fires along with the vineyard of old zinfandel that grows near it.

Vintner Tim Mondavi spoke from San Francisco, having been evacuated from his home on Silverado Trail.

“There are a lot of people from the valley here,” he said. “I keep running into them. Everyone is sharing news as they hear it.”

To his knowledge, his house was still standing, Mondavi said, but he hasn’t been able to return.

Continuum, his Pritchard Hill winery in east Napa, is standing and running on back-up power from a generator, he said. “Fuel is a concern. We have enough left for a couple of days, but obviously can’t bring any more in.”

Continuum had brought in about two-thirds of their harvested grapes when the fire broke out, and he hopes to be able to get the remaining one-third in “as soon as possible, if it is possible.” But for the time being, the safety of the crew and staff is the paramount concern.

Mondavi said the team was trying to establish fire breaks around Continuum on Wednesday.

Of the valley’s three farmworker housing centers, only the Calistoga center remained open on Wednesday. Gil Ortiz, the site’s manager, said the center was located three miles south of where the fire was burning Wednesday morning and had not been told to evacuate. “We’ve been real lucky,” he said.

Of the 55 residents at the center, Ortiz estimated only about 10 were working on Wednesday, while others “have already been told by their employer … the season is already over.”

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Angel Calderon, manager of the River Ranch farmworker housing center, said from the center by phone that the center’s 60 residents had been evacuated Tuesday night and Calderon had just returned Wednesday morning to check on the site.

“Everything looks normal,” he said. “We have electricity. We have services.” But he noted smoke was heavy near the site that morning.

For some of the center’s evacuees, Calderon said, “the harvest is over. I don’t think they’re going to pick any more grapes.”

To his knowledge, some were returning to Mexico, while others had gone to Vallejo to stay with family members. Still some have remained in the area, he said, “They call me and tell me they are sleeping in their cars.”

It was unclear on Wednesday when the River Ranch center would be able to reopen. “As soon as the situation is over we want to reopen and we’re going to see how many people come back,” he said.

Meanwhile, the status of the Mondavi farmworker housing center on Silverado Trail was still unknown on Wednesday. Located dangerously close to several wineries that were reported damaged, the center’s 56 residents were evacuated Sunday night as the Atlas Peak fire approached, said site manager Jose Munoz by phone Wednesday morning. The area remained inaccessible on Wednesday, Munoz said.

As the complete scope of destruction in Napa and Sonoma wine country continues to grow, the wider California wine industry has been mobilizing. Industry leaders throughout the state on Wednesday called for immediate support, including water tanks, generators, tractors and trailers, lodging and volunteer labor. For long-term support, the Sonoma County Resilience Fund, the Napa Valley Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Mendocino County are all accepting donations.

“We need the entire wine community to support this region with immediate and strategic action,” Ann Petersen, executive director of Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley, said in a release.

Megan Metz, executive director of the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association, said in the release, “It’s times like these that remind us how important the company of family and friends can be. We have banded together to help our friends as best we can to protect their businesses and livelihoods and will continue partnering on recovery efforts in the weeks and months ahead.”

Features Editor Sasha Paulsen contributed to this report.


Wine Reporter / Copy Editor

Henry Lutz covers the local wine industry. He has been a reporter and copy editor for the Register since 2016.