California 2020: A Lawyer’s Vintage

The 2020 vintage was, quite simply, a disaster for California wine. But until recently, quantifying just how badly the fires affected harvest has been difficult. The wine industry is understandably touchy when it comes to communicating what is perceived to be bad news about a vintage.

Most organisations such as the Napa Valley Vintners association or Sonoma County Winegrowers association quite deliberately seem to avoid using the words ‘smoke taint’, preferring to speak about ‘smoke exposure’ or merely offer bromides such as ‘every one of our members made some wine in 2020’, which after a vintage like 2020 seems the equivalent of, ‘it’s just a flesh wound’.

Some wine producers, though, don’t feel the need to pull any punches.

‘I’m not making a single drop of red wine in 2020’, said Chris Carpenter, winemaker for the Cardinale, Lokoya, La Jota, Mount Brave, and Caledon wine labels, all of which are owned by Jackson Family Wines. ‘I started picking and got maybe two-thirds of the way through, and I was thinking to myself we were just wasting money, and so we just stopped.’

Carpenter oversees nearly 400 acres (160 ha) of estate vineyards for Jackson Family Wines in addition to buying an additional 10–20% of his total tonnage every year from outside growers.

‘I’m making wines that sell for $100 to $450 per bottle’, explained Carpenter. ‘There’s just no way I’m going to put out a wine that a collector is going to buy, trusting that it is good, and then have issues four or five years down the line when bound-up smoke compounds have released and it tastes like an ashtray. They’d lose their trust for me, for our wines, and they would never buy again.’

Continue reading this article on JancisRobinson.Com

This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is usually available only to subscribers of her website. If you’re not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($11/mo or $111 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and maps from the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.

Image of Dale Harvey’s Pigasus Vineyard wreathed in fog, courtesy of Pigasus Vineyards. Harvey suffered significant losses in 2020 due to smoke.

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California Runs Dry

Over the last year or two, the ubiquitous two-word phrase ‘climate change’ has, with increasing frequency, been replaced with the phrase ‘climate emergency’. Spring has not quite yet transitioned to summer in California wine country, but there are plenty of alarm bells ringing that make it clear the state is firmly in the grip of the latter.

On Wednesday 21 April, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency for Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. As the site for his announcement he chose the dry bed of Lake Mendocino where, he said, under normal circumstances he should have been standing ‘40 feet underwater’. Last Monday, 10 May, he expanded that emergency declaration to add 39 other counties to the list, including Napa. 

Rainfall in the state is at 42% of normal levels according the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with parts of Sonoma County at just 33% of historical averages. At a time when parts of the state would normally be seeing the last of their spring showers, more than 1,788 fires have already started, including some flare-ups from ‘holdover fires’ – smouldering embers from 2020 that did not receive enough rain to be fully extinguished over the winter. The wildfire risk for much of the west, as shown above in a map from Channel 7 News, is already extreme.

Continue reading this story on JancisRobinson.Com.

This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is usually available only to subscribers of her website. If you’re not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($11/mo or $111 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and maps from the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.

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Smoke Taint Looms Large in CA

It has now been six weeks since the successful containment of the Glass Fire, a 67,484-acre (27,310-ha) blaze that burned in both Napa and Sonoma Counties. Despite the first winter rain having fallen in California a week or two after containment, an official end to the fire season has not yet been declared. Nonetheless, wine producers across northern California are moving on with the vintage, though that means many different things to many different people.

Official information about the full impact of the fires, beyond acres burned and structures destroyed, remains difficult to come by, especially when it comes to the wine industry. In fact, such information may only ever be truly available via retrospective analysis, when various governmental and trade organisations obliged to report on grape and wine production tell us how many acres were harvested and how much wine was actually produced.

Only when the US Department of Agriculture releases its annual Grape Crush Report on 10 February will we have a sense of the full extent to which this year’s fire season has impacted the vintage. Until then, and up to the point that a new vintage is in the barrel, many individuals and most organisations are trying their best to avoid the topic, and indeed even the words themselves: smoke taint. This is for fear of creating an impression with consumers that might in any way reduce their propensity to buy wines from the 2020 vintage.

Continue reading this story on JancisRobinson.Com.

This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is usually available only to subscribers of her web site. If you’re not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($11/mo or $111 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and maps from the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.

Image of discarded Zinfandel grapes courtesy of Steve Moazed and Bar None’s Canyon Vineyard.

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Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 10/25/20

Welcome to my weekly roundup of the wine stories that I find of interest on the web. I post them to my magazine on Flipboard, but for those of you who aren’t Flipboard inclined, here’s everything I’ve strained out of the wine-related muck for the week.

California fires live updates: Power cut off to 355,000 in Bay Area and state amid fierce, fire-whipping winds
But it seems to have worked.

Wine, Covid-19 and the loss of smell
Jeni Port checks in with the industry.

How Photography Led To A Winery
The story of Aperture Cellars.

Can California’s top wine region survive the era of megafire?
The Guardian checks in.

Sinskey: We Will Only Make 600 Cases of Wine This Year
A decision they made in the Spring.

The Beirut Explosion, Twelve Weeks Later: A Closer Look At Its Continued Impact On Lebanon’s Wine Industry
Cathy Huyghe talks with Karim and Sandro Saadé

The end of the sommelier?
Bring out yer dead!

80% of Napa Wineries are Moving Forward with the 2020 Vintage
Yeah, with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. This is 98% spin.

The Social Distance Vintage: Harvest in Bordeaux
An ‘ocean’ of hand sanitizer.

How drought conditions impact wine
Not just for California anymore.

Oregon vineyards lose lawsuit against marijuana operation
Didn’t meet the burden of proof, says judge.

Hurt by the pandemic and wildfires, some Napa Valley vintners request loosening of winery regulations
Let tasting rooms open longer!

England’s steep learning curve
The winners have been picked.

California’s Next Generation Lead Women Winemakers and the Promise That Accompanies Their Success.
A profile of sixteen of them.

Think Locally and Five Other Takeaways from the Wine Intelligence Consumer Trends in the Covid-19 Era Report
Everyone’s buying Australian again?!?

Armenia: making wines its own way
Christy Canterbury on Armenia.

Mt. Veeder’s Sky Vineyards: How to See a Future When Your World is Ablaze
Checking in with a family scarred by fire.

Yes, Wine Scores Still Matter
Says Matt Kettmann.

Anson: Exclusive first look inside billionaire Jack Ma’s Bordeaux project
Nice cows, nice eggs.

Why Some of the World’s Most Exciting Pinot Noirs Are Coming From New Zealand
Erica Deucy makes the case.

From the Glass Fire, comes the chance to build this Napa Valley winery again
Another telling of the Cain tragedy.

Climate change has affected 2020 wine harvests around the globe. Growers are concerned.
Concerned doesn’t quite describe it.

America’s Burgundy? Oregon’s Value Pinot Shows the Way
Paul Gregutt on the lower-priced Oregon Pinots.

A Francophile’s Unexpected Love Affair With Canadian Wine
The delight of the non-wine person.

Wine talk: Israel’s first cult wine
Yarden Katzrin. How many bottles do you have?

Wine Helps with Cannabis Classification
AVAs for Mary Jane.

Loving Tannat: Germán Bruzzone of Bodega Garzón on Uruguay’s Wine Evolution
Checking in on a poineering producer.

It’s a Bug’s Life in the Vineyard
The good guys and the bad guys.

Bruliam’s Dr. Overstreet on Harvest in a Pandemic and a Way Forward for Small Wineries
Dorothy Gaiter interviews Dr. Overstreet.

Organic Winemaking Is a Zoo With Armadillos, Falcons, and Pigs
Elin on the modern menagerie. But the baby armadillos are the cutest. Just sayin’.

There’s More Than One Way to Beaujolais
An excellent overview.

Wine Spectator Announces New Executive Editor
End of an era at the Spectator.

The battle for the soul of Napa’s To Kalon
The soul? Or the Brand?

Sonoma Starts Selling the Turbulent 2020 Vintage
Selling being the operative word.

Sonoma County Winegrowers Look to Reset After Unimaginable 2020 Season
70% have suffered some fire damage.

Nina Caplan: now, more than ever, wine is our conduit to the world
Hear, hear.

NY restaurant couple mistakenly served $2000 Mouton 1989 after ordering $18 Pinot
The real story is that the people who ordered the Mouton but got the Pinot didn’t know the difference.

How Income Inequality Has Erased Your Chance to Drink the Great Wines
Unless you are mistakenly served them at Balthazar.

Rothschild vs Rothschild, Mouton vs Lafite – as seen in 1893
Oh the drama of it all.

Experimentation Propels Virginia’s Wine Industry
Michelle Williams charts confidence.

Often Overlooked, Oregon’s Latinx Wine Community Thrives
A nice overview.

So, what’s new in the world of orange wine in 2020? We ask the on-trade
The geekiest question, ever.

The post Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 10/25/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 10/18/20

Welcome to my weekly roundup of the wine stories that I find of interest on the web. I post them to my magazine on Flipboard, but for those of you who aren’t Flipboard inclined, here’s everything I’ve strained out of the wine-related muck for the week.

Women and the wine industry. What “IT IS NOT OK”. Spilling it out
It’s not ok.

The Year that Changed the Wine World
Atkin on 71 and 82.

Wineries and Chefs Gear Up Charity Efforts for California Wildfire Relief
Good roundup of efforts.

A Looming Menace for Restaurants: Winter Is Coming
And the Night King hates takeout.

On Wine Bitch
Anne Burchett responds to the UK controversy.

The New Vocabulary of Wine
Whatever you say.

Are wine writers redundant?
We’ve got a couple of years before AIs like this one take over.

NOAA: Dry, warm winter could bring drought to California, Southwest in 2021
La Niña is coming, and boy is she pissed.

How the James Beard Foundation Failed the Most Prestigious Restaurant Awards in the Country
A stinging indictment.

Wine Enthusiast’s 21st Annual Wine Star Award Nominees
Speaking of awards.

Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain, ravaged by Glass Fire, says it will rise from the ashes
But the road is still closed.

Washington, local winemakers hopeful grape crops remain undamaged by wildfire smoke
Not just California concerned.

This Remote Corner of Argentina Is Home to High-altitude Vineyards and One of the Most Far-flung Museums in the World
Get thee to Salta.

Italian Police Smash Fake Wine Ring
Hope your Sassicaia ain’t fake.

Napa’s Nights of Fire on the Mountain
Blake Gray lets Stu Smith tell his own tale.

A wine-tasting postponed 2,000 years
The idea of tasting the past is quite compelling.

Berkeley wineries rally during uncertain times
Like everywhere. Scrappy succeeds.

Does naming a thing help you understand it?
Fascinating article. Aroma memory may not require language.

How this year’s historic wildfires are affecting California’s Wine Country
Mostly a profile of Jordan.

Many California wineries will make no wine this year because of wildfire smoke
Excellent reporting, as usual, from Esther Mobley.

A guide to the best British wines
Jancis on what’s good.

How The Digital World Is Transforming Fine Wine In 2020
Nothing revelatory here, but a good reminder.

Diving into the Shark Tank Wine Case
Blake Gray loves to dive with sharks.

The wine bar story I’ve waited seven months to write
A pop-up wine bar flourishes.

Napa’s Fire Response Overwhelmed and Underfunded
An in-depth article.

Behind The Scenes And Underneath The Screwcaps: Tumultuous Times In The Wine Aisle (Part One)
Cathy Huyghe on the market

Turbulent Conditions Shift The Global Flow, And The Price, Of Wine (Part Two)
Cathy’s article continued.

Taras Ochota remembered
A lovely remembrance of a man lost far too young.

Lulu Peyraud, a French Wine Matriarch, Dies at 102
NY Times Obit.

Lulu Peyraud, 1917–2020
Another remembrance and tribute.

In Trying Times, 20 Wines Under $20 That Revive and Restore
Eric Asimov’s bargain hunting.

The post Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 10/18/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 10/11/20

Welcome to my weekly roundup of the wine stories that I find of interest on the web. I post them to my magazine on Flipboard, but for those of you who aren’t Flipboard inclined, here’s everything I’ve strained out of the wine-related muck for the week.

OPEN: SVB Annual State of the Industry Survey
If you’re in the industry, please contribute to this valuable source of insight.

Pandemic Planning — Wineries Cut Costs, Some Change Benefits
What wineries have been doing. Lots.

Amber Gardner on how (not) to nurture women in wine…
Another excellent view into fundamental issues in the  industry.

The value of familiarity in wine
Robert Joseph likes to counter prevailing wisdom.

Napa County faces big cleanup job following Hennessey and Glass fires
Remnants of more than 1000 structures to haul away.

Dino Illuminati: A Remarkable 90 Years in the History of Italian Wine
A remembrance.

Private fire crews in California’s wine country raise concerns over equity and safety
Hard to prevent people trying to save their properties.

Napa, Sonoma wineries damaged in Glass Fire plan path forward
Lots of insurance calls.

A smaller harvest spells trouble for Napa Valley’s agricultural workforce
The ripple effects of fires.

No room to breathe: How an antiquated tax system is killing Ontario’s wineries
Not just an American that’s screwed up in this department.

Bandol Pioneer Lucie Peyraud of Domaine Tempier Dies
One heck of a life. One heck of a woman.

Wine’s Covid Winners and Losers
What’s happened to prices.

2020 has been a turbulent year, but it just might be a special vintage for L.I. winemakers
A good year, it sounds like.

Napa firefighter recounts saving Upvalley winery from fast-moving fire
One of thousands of such heroic moments.

For Northern Rhône Reds, It’s Not the Age but the Emotions
Eric writes a love letter to Syrah.

2019 – Germany’s breakthrough vintage?
But will people start drinking Riesling?

A Vintage Lost?
It appears, mostly.

The Gender Pay Gap: How The Wine Industry Stacks Up
Mixed results.

Napa Valley assesses a fire season that could forever alter its tourism economy
Tough times ahead.

Napa wineries dub a ‘true hero’ of Glass Fire: a winemaker on a stunt motorcycle
An amazing, heart-warming story.

The hundred halters
Jamie Good on the 100 point scale.

Twenty Years that Transformed the Argentine Wine Industry
An extremely informative article.

Low Yields, Smoke Concerns Seen Balancing Pinot Noir Supply
Hard to call it a blessing in disguise. But still.

Glass Fire Being Called Worst In Napa History, With Hundreds of Homes and at Least 20 Wineries Damaged or Destroyed
But it could have been much worse.

Santa Cruz Mountains Winemakers Grapple with Aftermath of Fire
An in-depth article on the region.

Wine Pros Aim to Effect Change Through Vines 4 Votes
Buy wine for good.

A Champion of Burgundy’s Underdog
Robert Camuto talks with Jean-Marc Vincent about Santenay.

Winery Visitation Down 48 Percent in Four Key Regions in August  – Community Benchmark
No surprise. We gotta get it back up.

Family, Friends Save St. Helena Winery From Glass Fire
Dangerous, but ultimately successful action.

The Winemakers Behind England’s Sparkling Future
Anne Krebiehl profiles a few.

Here Are 12 Covid-era Wine Consumer Trends
None surprising, most depressing.

Wine Distributor Jailed for Fraud After Using Reality TV to Lure Investors
Shark Tank can’t smell a rat.

After back-to-back wildfires, some Napa winemakers won’t make a 2020 vintage
Many will not.

Is Napa’s wine-based economy too one-sided? Some argue for diversification
But only economic diversity is being discussed.

Why you should buy South African wine
Jancis makes the case.

Just when we need a drink, the U.S. wine industry faces an existential threat
A good rundown, with excellent photos.

8 Best Wines Made by Sommeliers
A collection of some excellent labels.

Immigrant Workers Make ‘Wine Country’ Possible. Now Many Have Evacuated.
Give this one a listen.

Wine Country Starts Picking Up the Pieces
Just in time for the next red flag warning

What It’s Like to Be a Black Man Working in the Wine Industry
Invisible, for starters.

UK Wine Industry Steps into the Unknown
And so it begins

How Winemakers Craft Clean Natural Wines
Interestingly many of these techniques are looked at as “interventions”

Up in smoke
This is a remarkable article with incredible visual data. Must read.

An Estimated 80% of Napa’s Cabernet May Be Lost to Fire and Smoke
Elin McCoy gets estimates from winemakers

Wildfires Destroy Homes and Iconic Wineries in Northern California Wine Country
In which I and my sister have a brief cameo.

The post Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 10/11/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Napa Wineries Ask ‘What now?’ As They Survey Glass Fire Wreckage

The following is the introduction to an article I penned for Club Oenologique, a fantastic new online magazine out of the UK focused on luxury wine.

Saturday, 26 September was the last ordinary day for Napa vintner Jeff Smith. He spent it as he often does, hosting visitors at his winery that nestles into the hills on the east side of Napa Valley.

Smith’s Hourglass Winery, just north of St Helena, features a set of caves carved into the hillside and a unique, outdoor winery, topped by an elegant half-roof cantilevered above the cellar door. Out front, the estate’s Blueline Vineyard surrounds a diminutive farmhouse built in 1858, a relic of Napa’s agrarian past.

After visits to the Napa winery, Smith often hosts dinners for guests at the farmhouse, as he did – albeit with social distancing protocols – on that fateful Saturday night.

“It had gotten pretty late as we cleaned up,” says Smith. “So instead of driving home we decided to spend the night. In retrospect, it was good to have one last night there.”

At 4:10 the next morning, Smith’s life, like so many lives in Napa Valley, would change forever as the Glass Fire tore down the hillsides of the Vaca Mountains into the heart of upper Napa Valley.

Continue reading this piece on Club Oenologique.

Image of Viader Vineyards in the wake of the Glass Fire courtesy of Alan Viader.

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Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 10/4/20

Welcome to my weekly roundup of the wine stories that I find of interest on the web. I post them to my magazine on Flipboard, but for those of you who aren’t Flipboard inclined, here’s everything I’ve strained out of the wine-related muck for the week.

Grape and Bulk Market Activity Increases as Wineries Seek Ways to Supplement a Smaller, Smoke Plagued Vintage
Not a surprise.

Early Burgundy Vintage Confounds Expectations
Early but not hot.

Disruption of lives from the coronavirus disrupts Napa Valley agriculture
Hard times for hard workers.

Wineries burn, but places endure: After Cain is destroyed, new reasons for hope
Esther talks with Chris Howell.

Beaujolais Reports ‘Vintage of Extremes’
Drought, heat and more.

The Joys of Serendipity
We should all be so lucky.

Battling Wildfires and the Pandemic, Some U.S. Winemakers Forgo the 2020 Vintage
A club with a swelling list of members.

Fires Leave Napa Harvest on a Knife Edge
A sharp, bloody knife, as the case may be.

Colorado Wine Country’s 2020 harvest rises above the tenor of our times
Good news despite long odds.

The many faces of the wine consumer
Look into their eyes.

Bats Are the Newest Key to Producing a Fine Bottle of Bordeaux
Bats rock.

Oregon Wine Pioneer Susan Sokol Blosser on ’The Apocalypse,’ Rage Baking — And Optimism
Fun chat with Susan.

Smoke Taint Insurance – Frequently Asked Questions
Read this and then tell me you’re not glad you don’t grow grapes.

Charles Krug Winery Hosts Basecamp for PG&E to Assist Firefight
One of many good deeds this past week.

North Bay wildfires cloud wine grape harvest as total losses could approach $500 million
That estimate seems low to me.

Time to Kill Gender Stereotypes in Wine
You don’t need your wine to be ‘feminine’ you need it to be good.

Glass Fire has now damaged 17 Napa Valley wineries as world-famous region remains under grave threat
Esther’s update on Sunday.

Glass Fire Continues as California Wildfires Burn Over 4 Million Acres
NPR weighs in.

Glass Fire fans uncertainty around Napa’s ongoing harvest
No fans of this fire.

Napa’s Winemakers Discover Scorched Vines and Close Calls
Too many for comfort.

Lambrusco: Your Fresh Fall Wine
Lana Bortolot pens a primer.

Is It Time to Redefine ‘Sommelier’?
Anytime is a good time for that.

Slow Wine, Explained
Well, not entirely.

The Zimbabwean Somm Reimagining South Africa’s Wine Industry
An inspiring profile.

California Fires Take a Deep Toll on Wine Country
Eric Asimov on the fires.

We’ll Make It Even Better: A Q&A with Meadowood Co-Owner Bill Harlan
Bill, as usual, thinks 20 years ahead.

Can California’s wine country survive the climate crisis?
Not if it burns to the ground.

Why is One of Champagnes Biggest Groups Breaking Up?
Deep look into the business of bubbles.

Anson: Living through wartime Bordeaux
An excerpt from Anson’s book.

Penfolds: the best winery in Australia or a Louis Vuitton wannabe?
Everyone is a brand these days.

A running list of Napa Valley wineries that have been damaged or destroyed in the 2020 Glass Fire
The list continues to grow.

How Microagressions in a Sonoma Winery Made a Black Winemaker Question Her Profession
This is what structural / systemic racism looks like – insidious, tiny little things that add up to an atmosphere of “you don’t belong here.”

Meadowood Resort, Newton Vineyard, Burgess Cellars Among Napa Wildfire’s Many Victims
Spectator rounds up status as of Tues, 9/29.

The post Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 10/4/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Images: Orange Harvest

Orange Harvest.
LOS OLIVOS, CA: Dark afternoon smoke from the officially named Alamo Fire, burning in the nearby coastal mountains within view of the Pacific Ocean, creates an eerie, surreal scene near Los Olivos, California. The 30,000 acre blaze began near Twitchell Reservoir on Highway 166 in 2017 and quickly spread toward the ranches and vineyards along the Tepusquet Bench. Today, fires still burn in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino wine country.

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This image is from a series of photographs by George Rose captured in the process of shooting his most recent work WINE COUNTRY: Santa Barbara County, a visual celebration of one of California’s most beautiful wine regions. The book can be ordered on George’s web site.

Fine art prints of this image and others are available at George Rose’s web site:

To purchase copies of George’s photos for editorial, web, or advertising use, please contact Getty Images.

Vinography regularly features images by photographer George Rose for readers’ personal use as desktop backgrounds or screen savers. We hope you enjoy them. Please respect the copyright on these images. These images are not to be reposted on any web site or blog without the express permission of the photographer.

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Napa and Sonoma Burn Again. Horribly.

I don’t know how coherent this particular piece is going to be, as I watch the social media evidence of friends and loved ones fleeing their homes, and as I keep tabs on my sister Shannon, who is on the front lines fighting what has become known as the Glass Incident fire. Bear with me as I do my best.

At around 3:45 AM on Sunday, in the midst of a Red Flag warning, something (no one is yet sure what) sparked a fire in the hills to the northwest of Napa Valley. With 95 degree temperatures on Saturday, and an even hotter day on Sunday, very low humidity, and some offshore winds blowing, that fire, which was named the Glass Fire grew exponentially and tore down the hill towards Napa Valley and the towns of Calistoga and St. Helena

Later that day, two more fires started across the valley in the Mayacamas Mountains, possibly from blown embers. By the early hours of Monday morning, these fires had combined into a single fire that has, to date, burned more than 11,000 acres and is continuing to burn uncontained, as firefighters and first responders scramble to evacuate residents.

The fire crossed Silverado Trail late last night at Lodi Lane, south of St. Helena, and began burning the valley floor in a phenomenon known as spotting, as embers and fallen trees advance a fire into a new area, it does not seem to have spread rapidly from that point however, possibly due to the number of vineyards in the area, which burn quite poorly unless faced with massive walls of flame.

My sister spent the day on Sunday working the fire line near Rombauer Vineyards where this morning there was still a crew working to keep the fire away from the winery. Here’s a video she shared with me, taken by Bodega Volunteer Fire Department Captain Boone Vale.

I got a chance to see through my sister’s dash cam as she drove up Silverado Trail this morning around 10 AM, and I could see the fire burning down to, but not across the Silverado Trail between Zinfandel Lane and the Pope Street bridge.

She pointed out the huge column of black smoke from behind the hill to the right of Silverado Trail and said, “See that dark smoke? You don’t get that from just trees and brush burning. That’s structures on fire.” It’s unclear whether they were private homes or wineries or both, but that area includes wineries such as Joseph Phelps, Bulgheroni Estates, and more.

Damage reports, as they always are in these situations where access to the burn zone is highly restricted, are spotty and unreliable. We do have confirmation that Chateau Boswell has burned down, and that there is fire damage at the Schramsberg Property, Castello di Amarosa, Failla Vineyards, and Rombauer, but that so far, all of those wineries are still standing. Duckhorn, too, which my sister predicted might go overnight, was miraculously saved from the flames.

Despite fire maps that look like this…

The town of St. Helena is still relatively unscathed, as are wineries such as Charles Krug, which you can see peeking through as text in between the dots that indicate spot fires.

My sister was deployed to the ridge above Meadowood Resort around lunchtime today where she described large explosions (likely propane tanks) and said she was watching the golf course and a major building she thought was the restaurant on fire. An hour or two later I saw this photo on Twitter:

Napa and Sonoma Burn Again. Horribly.

That’s the restaurant burning, as she feared.

Crews, including my sister’s are working valiantly, but many are having to prioritize saving and evacuating people over structures, and structure defense over containing the fire, so it’s a big juggling act and unfortunately the fire is spreading unchecked through parts of Napa Valley.

Napa and Sonoma Burn Again. Horribly.
My sister “mopping up” hotspots on Madrone Knoll above Meadowood today.

Just got a text as I was writing this saying “Sterling didn’t make it.” So that’s an unconfirmed report that Sterling Vineyards may have burned. She says fellow firefighters claimed to have watched the winery’s famous gondolas plummeting to the ground. She has not yet seen for herself if the winery is a total loss yet, or not.

Over the hills towards Sonoma, my sister also reports hearing that Ledson Vineyards succumbed to the flames as the fire moved down towards Highway 12, where it continues to encroach on communities such as Kenwood, Glen Ellen, and the Santa Rosa neighborhoods of Oakmont.

Looking at the fire maps, and watching things unfold through the valiant reporting of people like Sarah Stierch here’s what has me worried at the moment.

There’s a whole area, marked in purple below, that seems like it will almost certainly burn fully. That’s where Schramsberg Vineyards is.

Napa and Sonoma Burn Again. Horribly.
Fire map showing Sonoma County evacuation areas and fire inundation zones.

The whole left side of that orange mandatory evacuation zone is the city of Santa Rosa, population 177,586. If the fire keeps moving west, there will be a lot of people losing their homes.

Farther to the south than is shown on the image above, a huge tract of open space called Trione-Annadel State Park is currently seeing spot fires from blowing embers. If it fully catches fire, we may see a repeat of the kind of behavior we saw when the fire first started: tons of virgin fuel from roughly 8 square miles of forested open space that may go up with a whoosh, and barrel down on Bennett Valley, where there are many wineries and private residences.

My sister and her fellow firefighters are working on just a few hours’ sleep and doing heroic work to keep people safe. Many have asked me to extend their thanks to her. She appreciates all the gratitude and encourages everyone to donate to her outfit, the Bodega Volunteer Fire Department.

Other worthy recipients of monetary support right now are Undocufund, which supports many of the undocumented workers whose livelihoods are likely to be most affected by this disaster, the Napa Valley Community Foundation and the Sonoma County Resilience Fund.

More to come as I hear it.

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