After the devastation of the October 2017 wine country wildfires, wineries that burned vowed they'd rebuild. But the reality of doing so turned out to be "a daunting task," said Rene Byck, whose family owns Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa. The tasting room and event space, the winemaking facility and three houses on the property were reduced to rubble. There were negotiations with architects, contractors and lawyers to navigate. In the larger scheme, "the reality we have is the industry's changing in Sonoma County. Tasting rooms are changing, there's fires, power shutoffs," said Byck.
But Byck and his family forged ahead, and this week it felt worth it, as the winery reopened its hospitality center and sculpture garden to cheers from local luminaries like Rep. Mike Thompson and county Board of Supervisors chairman David Rabbitt. On Monday, Paradise Ridge threw open its doors to all thirsty comers.
"When you've been running a business and running a building for 25 years, you know what worked well and what we wanted to fix," explained Byck of the design for the new facility. "This gave us an opportunity to make it even better." Though based on the previous building's design, the new Paradise Ridge has a grander entrance, more windows, bigger spaces for wedding prep, a new reserve tasting room and two terraces overlooking the Russian River Valley. And then there are the elements that address the new "reality": "The fire landed on all our wood decks and then burned the building, even though the building was stucco," said Byck, so the new decks are made of less-combustible daub. There is a backup generator and a fire hydrant on site now, too.
The price tag for the hospitality center's construction came out to $6 million, and Byck estimates that the cost to rebuild the production facility and the houses on the property could push the total to $15 million. "The biggest challenge has been dealing with our insurance coverage," said Byck—an ongoing discussion while plans are being drawn up for the rest of the complex. The vineyards and the winery's art collection were mostly unharmed. Next up, Paradise Ridge will be unveiling rebranded labels and preparing to welcome the springtime throng of revelers. "This is kind of phase one of getting our property back to normal."
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