Work Persists in Napa and Sonoma Even in the Face of Tragic Fires

"I'm in a bit of a scramble as you can imagine. I'm evacuated out of my house, etc. etc...but we're still working."

Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

At 7 A.M. PST on day four, fires continue to burn in Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Calistoga and Geyserville, towns known worldwide as wine country destinations were evacuated yesterday, as were several areas near the town of Sonoma itself.

The city of Napa now has the most polluted air in the nation, an unfortunate honor, thanks to incredibly high levels of particulate matter and ozone, with an air quality index of 167 (0 to 50 is considered good). The death toll from the fires has risen to 23, with several hundred people still unaccounted for primarily in Sonoma County.

And yet, as incredible as it might seem, work continues to bring the harvest in and make wine. Kirk Venge, of Venge Vineyards, who also consults for top wineries throughout the Napa Valley area, reports, "I'm in a bit of a scramble right now as you can imagine. I have 40 vineyards hanging, half in places we can't get to, half without crews to pick, two-thirds are ripe and ready to come off…I'm evacuated out of my house, etc. etc…but we're still working."

While others haven't been so lucky, reports do continue to arrive that wineries feared destroyed have so far come through all right, if not entirely undamaged. Along the Silverado Trail in one of the hardest hit areas, Robert Sinskey Vineyards still stands, though the historic house behind the winery burned, as does Regusci, Stags Leap Winery, Shafer Vineyards, and many others (at the time of this report, the only winery fully confirmed to have burned down along the trail is Signorello Estate—but owner Ray Signorello plans to rebuild).

As Shafer's Andy Demsky wrote to me, "Shafer is fine. Doug Shafer has confirmed that the winery structures are ok and survived unscathed. The vines had already been picked but they apparently protected the winery structures. The wine in the cellar has been protected by a generator. My understanding is that the young wines from this most difficult harvest in our history tastes amazing—so some good news."

Here in wine country, any good news right now is like gold.

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