Wildfires raging across California’s wine country likely won’t diminish this year’s offerings of Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots, despite flames destroying one prominent Sonoma County vineyard over the weekend.
Fire officials said that much of the damage in Sonoma and Napa Valley from the Kincade Fire, whichsince it began last Wednesday, has been in heavily wooded and mountainous areas, a safe distance away from most grapevines and wineries. Cal Fire officials said the Kincade blaze was only 15% contained as of Tuesday and could take weeks to extinguish.
Even if the fire made its way to local vineyards, the grapes wouldn’t burn, one official said. “We had about 95% of grapes harvested by the third week of September,” said Michael Haney, executive director of Sonoma County Vintners. “Those grapes are in tanks and are very well-protected.”
Still, Sonoma is one of many areas under a state of emergency, and 185,000 people have been evacuated. The Kincade Fire has damaged 16 structures and destroyed another 96 in the county, including buildings at Field Stone Winery and Soda Rock Winery.
Soda Rock owner Ken Wilson told the San Francisco Chronicle that his winery’s main building and 2019 vintage wines and inventory are gone.
“We’ve seen the news,” Soda Rock Winery posted on its Facebook page Sunday. “We are devastated. We don’t have much information, but we will update you as soon as we know anything. Our staff is safe — right now, what is important is the safety of the first responders battling the fire.”
Scott McLean, a spokesman for Cal Fire, confirmed the damage to the Soda Rock and Field Stone wineries, but said the full impact won’t be known until later this week at the earliest.
“The fire has been hitting those outlier areas around the vineyards,” McLean said, adding that other vineyards remain under threat. “Structures have been destroyed. Anything can happen at this point with the wind and weather conditions.”
Sonoma County is no stranger to losing wineries to fire.also hit the area, killing 22 people and destroying Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa.
About 80% of U.S. wine comes from California, and the state is the fourth-largest producer in the world, according to the Wine Institute. In 2018, California wine generated sales of $40 billion and $1.5 billion in exports.
The wine scene also accounts for $7.2 billion in California tourism. The Kincade Fire likely won’t cause tourists to cancel their plans to visit local wineries this year, said Ryan Becker with Visit California, the state’s tourism arm. Becker noted the Napa Valley Wine Train — a popular attraction to wine tourists — isn’t close to where the wildfires are raging.