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Paradise Ridge Winery takes first step to rebuild after 2017 Tubbs fire

The Byck family on Monday broke ground on an event center at the Paradise Ridge Winery, one year after the Tubbs wildfire gutted all of the buildings on the family’s Santa Rosa wine estate in the hills of the Fountaingrove neighborhood.

The start of construction marked a new beginning for the 24-year-old boutique winery that has become a top place for wedding ceremonies in the Bay Area.

More than 1,000 nuptials have been performed there as couples are entranced with its beautiful sunset views and sculpture garden featuring its iconic LOVE sign.

Founder Walter Byck said in the aftermath of the 2017 fire he was immediately dedicated to rebuilding. The blaze destroyed its event center/tasting room, the winery and three houses on the 156-acre property.

“There was no question,” Byck said of eventual reopening.

The goal is for the event center to be completed by October 2019.

Like many other fire survivors, though, the Byck family was underinsured. The overall cost for rebuilding was estimated at nearly $15 million, but the insurance payout was $5.3 million, said Rene Byck, Walter’s son. They are considering various legal avenues to cover the remaining losses.

The family decided to get the events center/tasting room built first since the events business generates about a third of the annual revenue, said Sonia Byck-Barwick, Walter’s daughter.

Paradise Ridge was somewhat lucky that its 15-acre estate vineyard suffered little damage, although neighbor Ancient Oak Cellars has to replant its Siebert Ranch vineyard. It also uses third-?party fruit from outside growers to supplement its annual caseload between 6,000 and 7,000 grapes.

“Originally,” Rene Byck said, “we thought maybe 20 percent of our vines. It looks like that is not the case. We had a healthy, full harvest.”

The Bycks have been making wine this year at Flanagan Winery in Healdsburg, he said.

There also has been the hardship of trimming the team at the winery from about 50 employees to 17, as many hospitality workers were let go even though Paradise Ridge maintained a second tasting room in Kenwood.

Martha Marquez, the winery’s event manager, lost her home and moved up to Oregon.

“I think she’s coming back and they (her family) are rebuilding in Fountaingrove here,” Rene Byck said.

But anticipation still remains. Engaged couples or those thinking about tying the knot are already calling. Paradise Ridge’s biggest year for weddings was 2016, the year before the historic Tubbs fire, when 72 weddings were held on its property.

“This week alone, I had five inquiries,” said Sonia Byck-Barwick. “I am getting inquiries left, right and center.”

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707- 521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com.

Bill Swindell

Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat  

In the North Coast, we are surrounded by hundreds of wineries along with some of the best breweries, cidermakers and distillers. These industries produce an abundance of drinks as well as good stories – and those are what I’m interested in writing. I also keep my eye on our growing cannabis industry and other agricultural crops, which have provided the backbone for our food-and-wine culture for generations.

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