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After fire, new Larson Family Winery retains historic feel

Workers are continuing to demolish the tasting room at Larson Family Winery that was destroyed by an electrical fire March 2, but plans for a new structure already are being discussed.

“While discussions of what it will look like are still in the very early stages, we do know what it will feel like,” said Hayden Puryear, the tasting room manager. “It will still be a space made for family fun, where friends come together and well-behaved furry friends are always welcome.”

No estimated date has been set for the opening of the new tasting room, but the winery expects to open a temporary tasting space this summer.

“It will be focused on helping us serve our guests in our beautiful outdoor area, which is such a wonderful place to enjoy our wines, especially in the summer and fall,” Puryear said. “Because we have not seen what the back pad looks like without the flagship barn, we don’t know the exact footprint we are dealing with.”

Construction of the temporary and permanent space has been delayed.

“Unfortunately, no rebuild work has started, since we’re still in the demolition stage,” said Erica Larson, the general manager and daughter of winery founder and CEO Tom Larson and his wife, Becky Larson, who oversees the wine club and tasting room. “While all those we work with have been trying their best, there have been more hurdles to jump and delays, so the wheels of progress are turning more slowly than we hoped.

“We thought we would have the demo permit the week after the fire happened, but it took almost two months. We did take the time to clear out and salvage what we could.”

Meanwhile, the Larson Family Winery is continuing its two other revenue sources.

“Being a direct-to-consumer winery, the tasting room is only one of three revenue channels we have, with the other two being our wine club and website,” Larson said. “The fire wiped out the largest of the three streams and happened just as we were entering our high season, adding insult to injury. We were ramping up to enter prime season, complete with a full roster of amazing tasting room associates and new experience offerings.

“We have tried to ramp up other channels, but it will be impossible to recreate the kind of sales momentum and wine club sign-ups we see in-person in our tasting room in spring and summer.”

The winery is still providing barrel-room pick-ups for wine club members and other customers.

“We are so grateful for our members and customers who continue to support us with their membership and wine orders,” Larson said.

The Larson family remains positive in the aftermath of the fire, but all the recent challenges have taken their toll.

“As we pass the two-month, post-fire milestone, we are mostly upbeat, but at times have felt a little beat up,” Larson said. “At the beginning, we were very optimistic and hoped for the best in terms of the timeline and opportunity to start anew. However, as the reality of disaster recovery set in, it has been a bit discouraging as things were delayed, complicated or more difficult than anticipated.”

In addition to their staff, family and friends, many groups and organizations have offered support, including Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers, Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, Sonoma Chamber of Commerce, Sonoma County Tourism and Sonoma Young Professionals.

Hayden described two specific acts of kindness that deeply touched him.

“Management at Cline (Family Cellars) and Jacuzzi (Family Vineyards) reached out early on and offered to interview any of our tasting room personnel and hire them temporarily until we reopened,” he said. “Of course, keeping our great team employed was a great concern from the outset, and this gave them a nice opportunity.

“And Craig Root, who the family has known and worked with for many years and is a well-known expert at designing tasting rooms, offered his services complimentary when we are ready to design the new tasting room space.”

Reach the reporter, Dan Johnson, at daniel.johnson@sonomanews.com.

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