Sonoma County wineries undergo losses during the Kincade fire
After the Kincade fire exploded over Geyser Peak on Oct. 23, one winery was destroyed and another severely damaged. But there were other losses for wineries throughout Geyserville and Healdsburg, where vintners are facing many unknowns after the largest fire in Sonoma County history tore through vineyards, outbuildings, pastures and landscaping.
Even wineries that were unscathed by flames were hampered in their efforts to bring in the remaining, late-ripening wine grapes such as cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot, crush them and begin fermentations. More mandatory evacuations, loss of power, road closures and toxic, smoke-filled air, kept workers out of the vineyards and wineries.
The most notable losses were Ken and Diane Wilson’s Soda Rock Winery, located on Highway 128 between Pine Flat Road and Chalk Hill Road, and Jackson Family Wines’ The Spire Collection at Field Stone Vineyard. Soda Rock, destroyed except for its 1869 stone façade and Bryan Tedrick’s Lord Snout metal sculpture (which debuted at Burning Man and was later purchased by the Wilsons), is just up the road from The Spire Collection site, where many of the Jackson family’s finest wines from Sonoma County and Napa Valley are poured.
“Based on multiple reports that we have received, we have sustained damage to the barn and winery at the Field Stone Vineyard property,” said Kristin Reitzell, vice president of public relations for Jackson Family Wines. “But the Vérité estate off Chalk Hill Road and Stonestreet winery in Alexander Valley remain structurally unharmed. While the area around all three properties was threatened by fire, we remain hopeful that there was no long-term damage to the vineyards.”
At press time, some wineries in the area had not yet reopened to visitors, so call ahead before visiting.
In the coming days, weeks and even months, wineries and vineyard owners in Alexander Valley and throughout Sonoma County will know more about the post-fire quality and quantity of their wines and the condition of their vineyards.
For now, here is an evolving list of area wineries affected in some way by the Kincade Fire.
Alexander Valley Vineyards: According to Katie Wetzel Murphy, whose parents, Harry and Maggie Wetzel, purchased the former Cyrus Alexander homestead in the early 1960s and began to plant vineyards, the Kincade Fire burned around the edges of the property, claiming a few sheds, small buildings and a greenhouse, yet the winery and tasting room were saved by firefighters. The family residences and the original 1840s Cyrus Alexander home were also spared. As of Oct. 31, AVV had no power, though Murphy’s brother, Hank, and his son, Harry, continued to tend to the remaining wine fermentations.
Clos du Bois and Simi Winery: These Constellation Brands properties, in Geyserville and Healdsburg, respectively, suffered no fire damage, according to spokesperson Alexandra Wagner. “Our Sonoma County properties - including Simi and Clos du Bois - will remain closed to the public until the area is confirmed safe by local authorities,” Wagner stated. “ The majority of our Sonoma County harvest is complete, and we anticipate no material impact to our 2019 vintage.”
Hafner Vineyard: In an Oct. 29 Facebook post, the small, family winery posted this: “One neighborhood family and business did something extraordinary and unimaginable for us ... In an unprecedented act of kindness and selflessness, the Jackson Family (of Jackson Family Wines) without a second thought told us to go get their generator and use it at our winery so we could save our fermentations and pick the rest of our cabernet sauvignon grapes. No words will be able to express our gratitude to them.”
Hanna Winery Alexander Valley: President Christine Hanna said a propane tank at the Alexander Valley Road winery southeast of Healdsburg – and just down the road from Alexander Valley Vineyards and Field Stone – burned but did not explode, and some landscaping was singed. Otherwise, the winery and tasting room were undamaged. “Some vines look a little crispy,” she said, “as does a beautiful old-growth oak. We were very, very lucky.”
Hanna and her family were double evacuees, as their Hanna Winery Russian River Valley, on the outskirts of Santa Rosa, received departure orders. “We were evacuated at 3 Sunday morning (Oct. 27),” Hanna explained. “My son, husband and I were staying in a house on the Santa Rosa property after being evacuated from our Healdsburg home on Saturday. We have a generator that is allowing us to continue winemaking operations.”
Ferrari-Carano Winery: The tourist-loving Geyserville gem has its estate winery in Dry Creek Valley and another in Alexander Valley for red wines. “Our red-winery facility on Highway 128 was surrounded by fire, but luckily it is still standing with no damage (and) running with our generators,” said executive winemaker Sarah Quider.