Updated Sept. 29, 10:00 a.m. PDT
For more recent updates on the Glass Incident fires' damage to wineries and vineyards, read "A Trail of Charred Vines and Broken Dreams: Napa Vintners Assess Damage as Glass Fire Continues to Threaten Wineries."
While firefighters continue to try and contain the wildfires raging in parts of Napa Valley and Sonoma, stunned vintners are trying to find out if their wineries have been consumed by the flames. As of Tuesday morning, the Glass Fire, which ignited Sept. 27, has consumed more than 42,500 acres, destroying homes, wineries and other businesses, with countless others still under threat from the fast-moving fires that remain uncontained.
Two of Napa Valley's most prestigious luxury resorts, Meadowood and Calistoga Ranch, have suffered significant damage. Meadowood, in the forested foothills to the east of St. Helena where the Glass Fire started, was evacuated Sunday afternoon and firefighters were engaged in its defense Monday morning when the fire made its approach, according to Brett Anderson, Meadowood's director of culture and communications. "We don't know the extent of the damage, but we have seen the photos of the fire posted by first responders on social media and are heartbroken," he told Wine Spectator, noting that no resort personnel were on-site as of late Monday afternoon.
A representative from Calistoga Ranch could not confirm the extent of loss but confirmed that all guests, owners and employees were safely evacuated.
The Lawrence Family, owners of Heitz Cellar, announced on Monday night that their recently acquired Burgess Cellars winery building on Howell Mountain was destroyed in the fire, although they believe damage to the vineyards was minimal. "We are incredibly grateful that our team members are unharmed," said Heitz CEO Carlton McCoy Jr. in a statement. "We look forward to rebuilding, but right now we are focused on the safety of our employees as well as our fellow Napa wineries and the community at large during this unpredictable time."
Read Wine Spectator's breaking news coverage of the Glass Incident fires, including coverage of the destruction of Château Boswell and damages sustained by Mending Wall, Tuck Beckstoffer Vineyards, Hourglass and more.
The ongoing fire threat has hindered many from accessing their properties to survey the scene. "We hear one thing, and then it changes. We know structures have been burned or destroyed, but just don't know the extent," said Meadowood's Anderson, who also noted that the property's owners are committed to rebuilding.
On the western side of Napa Valley, where additional blazes sprung up Sunday night, many are preparing for the worst—if they have not already seen it.
On Spring Mountain, Newton Vineyard's staff reported that the winery was significantly impacted by the wildfire. Photos show several buildings have been destroyed, but the team has not been able to inspect yet. "All facilities will be closed as we assess the damage, until further notice," Jean-Baptiste Rivail, president and CEO of Newton Vineyard, told Wine Spectator. He emphasized that the winery's parent company, Moët Hennessy, "intends to do whatever it takes to rebuild this truly special place."
Also on Spring Mountain, Behrens Family Winery lost its winery building. "Our current information for Spring Mountain is that the winery at Behrens burned, but the tank barn and tasting room there are ok," said Schatzi Throckmorton, general manager, on Tuesday. "Owners Les and Lisa Behrens are heading up this morning to assess the damage personally."
Elsewhere on the west side of the valley, photos have indicated fire damage at Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, but details are not yet available. The castle walls were still standing, but a building used for wine storage was reported to have at least partially burned.
Among those still wondering on Monday was Sheldon Richards of Paloma, on Spring Mountain, who said that he was forced off his property around 9 p.m. on Sunday night. "The road to St. Helena was closed by fires, so we eventually made it to Santa Rosa," he said, believing that his property had been consumed by the fire. "There were a lot of fire trucks there; maybe they stayed to fight the good fight."
On the other side of the street from Paloma, Wesley Steffens, estate director and associate winemaker at Vineyard 7 & 8, said that not long after he left the property on Sunday, the fire made a run up the hill, leaving much of Spring Mountain overwhelmed by fire. "It's hard to tell exactly where things stand, but the fire is reportedly on the next property over from Vineyard 7 & 8," he said, adding, "I will keep my fingers crossed—and pray for calm winds—that the vineyards, if needed, become a good fire break."
There have been innumerable close calls. Firefighters battled flames around Duckhorn and Rombauer in St. Helena, saving both. Viader Vineyards on Howell Mountain, near where the fire first erupted, welcomed firefighters onto their property, which served as a command center. "Firefighters know they have easy access to our 500,000-gallon water tank," owner Delia Viader said, noting that all of their vineyard irrigation cement tanks are equipped with fire hydrant quick-connect valves. "There is easy access to water and good visibility, so we remain hopeful that as long as they are there, things will be protected," she added. Her son, Alan, the family's winemaker, has worked to maintain clear firebreaks around the property.
John Conover of CADE has not been able to visit the winery on top of Howell Mountain yet, but heard good news from a neighbor. "At this point from what we know and a fellow vintner who drove by [Monday], both wineries are untouched. A miracle," he told Wine Spectator. "But as we have learned, a shift in winds, a hot ember and all can quickly change. We are cautiously optimistic with the calming winds, but are not out of the woods. With no power and fermenters full of Sauvignon Blanc we are anxious to get to CADE, but only when it is safe."
Down the mountain, Merus Wines lost some buildings, but thankfully the winery was spared. "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," said Shawn Schiffer of Foley Family Wines on Tuesday. "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."
Nearby at Failla, Ehren Jordan, who had reported that a massive team of firefighters was stationed on his crush pad fighting the fire, was able to return to the property shortly after 1 p.m. Monday afternoon. "All structures are intact," he said.
However, Failla's neighbor, Château Boswell, just a few hundred yards south, was not spared, its stone winery collapsed and nearby vines blackened.
Farther north, in Calistoga, Fairwinds Winery reported on its website that the property had been seriously damaged. "We hope to get creative and find ways to show you our wines in some other way on the property soon," the winery stated.
Minor damage is suspected at Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga. Owner Treasury Wine Estates issued a statement Monday confirming 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.
The Glass Fire ignited on the heels of the suppression of the LNU Lightning Complex, which consumed 363,220 acres and destroyed 1,491 structures in Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Solano counties. (Though that largely spared wineries and vineyards, the clouds of smoke that hung over the region for weeks have raised fears that numerous wines from the 2020 harvest could be ruined by smoke taint.)
In a frightening echo of the disastrous fires of 2017, the Glass Fire charged through the mountains toward the town of Santa Rosa, burning homes in the communities of Oakmont and Skyhawk. For now, the flames remain in the hills above the city. Few wineries and vineyards have been threatened thus far in Sonoma, but thousands of homes and businesses remain at risk.
Widespread evacuations have displaced thousands. And tens of thousands of those that are still in their homes are without power. As for the surrounding area, air quality has deteriorated, just as clear air had begun to return to the state. A red flag warning is in effect today due to strong and gusty offshore winds, low humidity and dry fuels, which could quickly expand the fires' footprint. And temperatures in the mid-to-high 90s are expected throughout the week.
Vineyard 7 & 8's Steffens said that no matter the outcome, he believes the community will come back stronger, and that they will all have many more stories to tell. "As one of my favorite mottos states, 'fall down seven times, stand up eight.'"
—with reporting by Augustus Weed, MaryAnn Worobiec and Kim Marcus