At a press conference late Tuesday, September 29, Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner had sobering words for those hopeful that the Glass Incident Fire had run its course. “We’re going to be in this for a couple of weeks,” Gossner said in remarks reported by the Bay Area News Group. “And it’s going to be painful for those that are dealing with it.”
As of the morning of Wednesday, September 30, the Glass Incident Fire — which began on the Napa/Sonoma County border on Sunday, September 27 and has so far damaged or destroyed at least 114 structures, including the three-Michelin-starred Restaurant at Meadowood and 120,000 bottles at destination winery Castello di Amorosa — had forced the evacuation of at least 70,000 people and consumed 48,440 acres of wine country land, CalFire said in a briefing. So far, no deaths have been reported, and there have only been a “handful” of injuries to area residents. The fire is at 2 percent containment.
#GlassFire is 48,440 acres and 2% contained. pic.twitter.com/asDIx5D163— CAL FIRE LNU (@CALFIRELNU) September 30, 2020
The cause of the fire remains unknown, with officials saying that workers are inspecting power lines near where the fire began. According to a statement from Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), the company hasn’t received any indication that its equipment sparked the blaze, but BANG reports that residents along North Fork Crystal Springs Road, near the hillside where the fire was first spotted, say some utility wires were down shortly before the fire began.
As the fire made its way across wine country, vintners and restaurateurs who’d fled the blaze returned the the area, many of them discovering that their life’s work had been destroyed. Here’s the latest on the food and beverage businesses damaged or lost in the fire.
- Behrens Family Winery: Wine Spectator spoke with general manager Schatzi Throckmorton, who says that “Our current information for Spring Mountain is that the winery at Behrens burned, but the tank barn and tasting room there are ok.”
- Bremer Family Winery: The Bay Area News Group reports that their photographer saw a fully-charred vineyard, but that its historic buildings (including an 1891-vintage structure that was the original headquarters of the famous Sutter Home label) have survived.
- Burgess Cellars: The Howell Mountain winery was completely destroyed, its owners tell Wine Spectator, but “damage to the vineyards was minimal.” “While we are devastated by the loss of these great heritage structures, we were heartened to hear that the vineyards were mainly spared. We look forward to many more great vintages once we can rebuild the winery,” CEO Carlton McCoy Jr. said via statement.
- Calistoga Ranch: The luxury resort was “badly damaged,” SF Gate reports. State Sen. Bill Dodd tweeted photos from the scene, which depict leveled buildings and charred picnic tables. The Ranch is home to Lakehouse Restaurant, the status of which remains unknown.
- Castello di Amorosa: The 13th-century–style winery in Calistoga known for its unique “castle” building lost $5 million of wine (based on 120,000 bottles) in the fire, BANG reports, but its $30 million castle remains safe.
- Chateau Boswell: The winery was one of the first destroyed by the Glass Incident Fire.
- Davis Estates: The heat from the flames prompted a 1,000-gallon propane tank on the property to explode, owner Mike Davis tells the Chron, but though “everything surrounding the winery” burned, the winery, itself, was saved.
- Fairwinds Estate Winery: On its website, Fairwinds says that “Most of the Fairwinds Winery and its Tasting Room has been very seriously damaged by the recent Napa Valley fires...We are pleased to report our people are all safe. Our hearts go out to friends and neighbors, many of whom have lost their homes and all their belongings. This will change us, but it will not reduce us.” According to video from photojournalist Brittany Hosea-Small, it appears to be completely leveled.
- Hourglass Winery: Wine Spectator reports that the proudly “anti-Napa” winery has “extensive damage.” An Instagram post from the winery shows a completely demolished building, and says that “our Blueline Estate was unfortunately in nature’s furious path,” and owner Jeff Smith tells KPIX that its winery facility and 162-year-old guest house were lost.
- Hunnicutt Wines: The SF Chronicle reports that “much of its winemaking equipment” was lost, but that its winery building is safe.
- Meadowood Resort: The building that housed the three-Michelin-starred Restaurant at Meadowood, the Grill at Meadowood, and a golf shop has burned to the ground, prompting a flood of social media grief. Co-owner Bill Harlan said that “We have to find something positive out of all of this. This gives us the opportunity to rebuild this better than before,” a spokesperson tells ABC 7, but executive chef Christopher Kostow tells the Chron “It’s weird that it’s all gone. It’s all rendered futile.” Food critic Soleil Ho worries that its loss is the end of an era, saying that “As wildfires become more of a yearly reality in the region, it’s hard to say if anyone will ever want to risk opening another restaurant as ambitious as the one at Meadowood, only to receive ashes in return.”
- Merus Wines: “One of our production outbuildings at Merus was destroyed, as was one of the two residences on the property. We also lost some farming vehicles,” a spokesperson tells WS. “The winery building is damaged but still intact. There was a small wooden bridge that ran from our parking lot to the winery building that went up in flames. It looks like Cal Fire made a stand there and saved the winery building. Our generator is up and running, and we are going to try to resume operations at some point today after we get things cleaned up.”
- Newton Vineyard: The Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) owned winery “was significantly impacted, Wine Spectator reports, with a spokesperson saying that the company “intends to do whatever it takes to rebuild this truly special place.”
- Paloma: Sheldon Richards, who owns the Spring Mountain winery, tells WS that he believes the property has been completely destroyed, but that he was forced to flee on Sunday night.
- Sherwin Family Vineyards: According to the Chron, the 24-year-old family-owned winery was destroyed.
- Spring Mountain Vineyard: Its main winery and mansion, which the Chron reminds us was featured in 1980s soap Falcon Crest, is safe, but its vineyard and an 1873-era winery were lost.
- Sterling Vineyards: A statement from owner Treasury Wine Estates confirmed “that video footage on social media appears to show Sterling Vineyards suffering fire damage, but that the property is currently evacuated and the damage has yet to be assessed,” WS reports.
- Tofanelli Vineyards: Owner Vince Tofanelli tells the SF Chronicle that he believes that “many of the grapevines, planted in 1929,” were lost, as was a 120-year-old barn and the winery’s (currently unoccupied) family home.
- Tuck Beckstoffer Vineyards: Owner Tuck Beckstoffer tells WS that “we saved the winery last night, but everything else was lost.”
According to the Napa County Office of Emergency Services, there are 64 total wineries within the evacuation zone, a significant percentage of Napa Valley’s 400 (or so) total wineries or tasting rooms. As of Wednesday morning, a total of 22,553 homes, restaurants, and other businesses remain at risk.