Deadly California wildfires force thousands to evacuate

Smoke rises as a wildfire burns in the hills east of Napa, Monday, Oct. 9.

The Napa Valley Vintners estimate that 90 percent of the grapes had been picked before the wildfires started on Sunday night. Those that remain are nearly all the thick-skinned cabernet sauvignon grapes.

After a Monday survey, the NVV heard from more than 100 members and from those preliminary reports, at least four physical wineries have “suffered total or very significant losses due to the fire,” according to an NVV press release. Additionally, nine others reported damage to their winery, outbuildings or surrounding vineyards. “We have yet to hear from some NVV members in the most vulnerable areas of the valley, including along the Silverado Trail, in Calistoga and in the Mt. Veeder, Partrick Road and Henry Road areas,” said the press release.

Understandably, just a few of the 16 harvest correspondents reported in this week. They are as follows:

Calistoga – Matt Crafton, Chateau Montelena, “A relatively mellow week took a tragic turn for the worse with gusty winds and low dewpoints culminating in the Atlas and Tubbs Fires. Though Montelena has been blessed with little or no damage as of Monday morning, right now our focus is on the health and welfare of our friends, neighbors and coworkers. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected and with the heroic first responders who’ve kept us safe.”

Howell Mountain — Alan Pierson and Erin Smith, O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery, “Powerless. Picking in Angwin is at a temporary halt unless the fruit is being hauled off the mountain. Unless you have a generator and can process on location. Looking forward to having power back — mostly because we need a shower.”

Oakville – Linda Neal, Tierra Roja Vineyards, “So far, Oakville has been spared from the terrible fires ravaging our neighbors north and south. We would be in the last week or two of harvest, with more and more of our wineries reporting they were finished or nearly so. Even though we are not burning, our operations have been brought to a standstill due to the loss of power throughout the entire Napa Valley, north of Trancas, since 10:30 Sunday night. For most, no power also means no water. The Silverado Trail remains closed. Your reporter needs a shower, but is well aware there are thousands this day that wish that was all they needed.”

Mount Veeder — Sander Scheer, The Hess Collection, “Late last week we jumped back into picking with our mountain cabernet after the slow down brought on by more mild weather. Flavors have made it to the zone we’re looking for. However, as I write this update Monday morning harvest has come to a screeching halt with the fires that started Sunday night. Our grapes are very important to us but the safety of our family, friends and colleagues is everything. We will pick back up harvesting when we can in the days ahead. Our hearts go out to everyone impacted in Napa and the entire North Coast.”

Carneros — Christopher Hyde, Hyde Vineyard, “Early Monday morning our 2017 grape harvest took another devastating turn. With the vines still recovering from a dramatic heat spike a few weeks ago, wildfires burned through Northern Carneros from Partrick Road and have left many with heavy damage and losses.”

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For real-time harvest photos and updates, visit the Napa Valley Vintners’ Harest 2017 website at


St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star, The Weekly Calistogan and st