A New, Rapidly-Spreading Fire Is Already Causing Damage in Napa

The Glass Fire has burned down at least one winery and is currently zero-percent contained.

Glass Fire Napa California
Firefighters from the Sacramento Fire Department take part in a firing operation near a property along Crystal Springs Road as firefighters work to contain the Glass Fire in Napa County on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020 in Deer Park, CA. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Contributor/Getty Images

Part of what made this year's California fires so problematic for winemakers—beyond their record size—is that they struck earlier in the harvest season. Whereas 2019's devastating Kincaide Fire broke out in October, the 2020 fires first struck in August. Not only did this mean more grapes were still on the vine, leaving them vulnerable to smoke taint, but another potential issue lurked in the distance: Wildfire season was far from over.

Over the weekend, those fears were confirmed: Cal Fire says that while the LNU Lighting Complex that tore through parts of Sonoma and Napa last month is now 98 percent contained, a new incident—the Glass Fire—began burning and, as of this writing, currently has zero containment across 11,000 acres in Napa County. At least one winery is already destroyed.

The 41-year-old Chateau Boswell winery in St. Helena was engulfed by the rapidly moving blaze on Sunday night, according to The Sacramento Bee.

Meanwhile, Wine Spectator reports that the Hourglass and Tuck Beckstoffer wineries have also suffered extensive damage. "It's hard to say what the true damage is," Hourglass winemaker Anthony Biagi told the wine magazine, adding that the wine in barrels was fine, but other parts of the property were likely destroyed. "The fire burned through our Blueline vineyard adjacent to Calistoga Ranch… The upper eastern Napa Valley got hammered."

Tuck Beckstoffer, president & CEO of his namesake vineyards, told a similar story. "We saved the winery last night, but everything else was lost," he was quoted as saying.

And the fire, which began in the early a.m. hours Sunday, is far from over. Evacuations have been ordered in many parts of the county, and Cal Fire states that as many as 8,500 structures, mostly homes, are already at risk, according to the Bee. "There have been numerous evacuations, that's been going on through the night," Cal Fire spokesman Tyree Zander was quoted as saying today. "They have a rapid rate of spread, a dangerous rate of spread."

"There is no containment and there are multiple fronts," Napa County emergency services official Janet Upton stated, adding that wind gusts were expected into the evening, making the job of battling the flames more difficult. "We need to get through this period."

Update 09/29/2020: Since yesterday, the Glass Fire has continued to rapidly expand—more than tripling in size to over 36,000 acres, but still with zero-percent containment. One of the most noteworthy losses was the complete destruction of the three Michelin-starred Restaurant at Meadowood which, along with other parts of the resort, burned to the ground, captured in stunning videos.

More wineries also suffered significant damages, with The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reporting damages to both the Castello di Amorosa winery and the Tofanelli Family Vineyard. The paper also suggests that, in general, these fires could essentially end the 2020 harvest season as any additional work would be too high risk and any remaining grapes would likely be smoke damaged. Additionally, the San Francisco Chronicle is publishing a running list of Napa Valley wineries that have suffered damages due to the fire: Beyond those already mentioned, that list currently also includes the Fairwinds Estate Winery, Hunnicutt Wines, Newton Vineyard, and Sterling Vineyard.

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