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San Diego County Wildfires Affect Area Wineries

Homes, vineyards and wineries were all in the fires' paths, though damage has yet to be fully assessed

Lynn Alley
Posted: October 30, 2007

The Southern California wildfires, which have now burned more than 200,000 acres of land and homes in several areas around San Diego, have also caused damage to the area's modest wine industry. At least one winery narrowly escaped disaster, though it lost a small percentage of its vines, while the home of another winery owner was destroyed. Reports on the status of other wineries remain slow to surface as the rest of the county cleans up and continues to contend with the remaining fires.

"Some of the anecdotal information that is being passed by word of mouth has yet to be confirmed," said Carolyn Harris, director of the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association, an area about 36 miles northeast of San Diego. "We've all been spending the last few days cleaning up our properties and trying to get back into communication with each other to determine for a fact the extent of the damage to the properties."

Orfila Vineyards and Winery, one of San Diego County's largest and most well-known wineries, located about 30 miles northeast of downtown San Diego, narrowly escaped destruction when the wildfires burned their way around three sides of the winery. About 200 vines, along with several homes and farms nearby, were destroyed, but the fires stopped short at the winery's newly paved asphalt driveway.

"It's a miracle," said Leon Santoro, the winery's general manager and winemaker. "The fires burned all around us, melted irrigation lines and poles, but only damaged 200 vines." The winery has about 40 acres of Syrah, Merlot, Sangiovese, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne.

The winery also suffered some collateral damage when signs were blown over by the high winds that fanned the flames. A mobile home on the property was destroyed by the fire, and the winery and grounds were covered with a thick coating of soot. The winery's employees were all evacuated safely, as is believed to be the case for other area wineries. Santoro said he was concerned that if the power went out it could affect the fermentations he had underway that were to be kept cool, as he'd just recently harvested his grapes. But upon returning to the winery, he found that the power had remained on.

Unfortunately, others weren't so lucky. Wine Spectator was able to confirm that the home of Sam Dawson, owner of the Samuel Givens winery, in Dulzura, Calif., was destroyed by the fires.

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