Bot­tles sucked dry of wine among charred re­mains

Manteca Bulletin - - State -

NAPA (AP) — Metal racks sag­ging with dozens of black­ened bot­tles were among the smol­der­ing re­mains of a Napa Val­ley win­ery de­stroyed by wild­fires that raced through a re­gion fa­mous for its fine food and drink.

The bot­tles were empty, sucked dry of wine. Some wine bar­rels were in­tact, as well as a swim­ming pool and chairs, but oth­er­wise, the Sig­norello Es­tate win­ery struc­ture was gone.

Through­out North­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s wine coun­try, vint­ners able to get to prop­erty sur­veyed the dam­age to vine­yards, tast­ing rooms and stor­age while oth­ers had to wait pa­tiently for flames to die down.

At the Gund­lach Bund­schu in Sonoma County, work­ers were not sure the grapes above the win­ery sur­vived a sec­ond night of fires that have de­stroyed at least two winer­ies and dam­aged more.

“We haven’t been able to go up and as­sess the vine dam­age,” said Katie Bund­schu, vice pres­i­dent of sales. “We’re in the process of sal­vaging what we can.”

Speedy, wind-driven wild- fires that started Sun­day came as work­ers in Napa and Sonoma coun­ties were pick­ing and pro­cess­ing ripe grapes to make chardon­nay, mer­lot and other wines that have made the re­gion a global hot spot. Mil­lions of lo­cals and out-of-staters flock to the coun­ties ev­ery year to sam­ple wine, sit in mud baths and soak in the re­gion’s nat­u­ral beauty.

At least five winer­ies belonging to mem­bers have had “com­plete losses” in fa­cil­i­ties, with an­other nine re­port­ing some dam­age, said Michael Honig, board chair­man of the Napa Val­ley Vint­ners trade as­so­ci­a­tion and pres­i­dent of Honig Vine­yard & Win­ery. He said the group has not heard from all mem­bers, es­pe­cially those in the most vul­ner­a­ble parts of the val­ley.

“That’s been the big­gest prob­lem — the in­for­ma­tion — you can’t ac­cess these ar­eas,” he said. “We don’t have a good idea of how the vine­yards have been im­pacted.”

He said the good news is that most of the val­ley had picked 90 per­cent of the crop for 2017. Most of the re­main­ing fruit, he said, are thicker-skinned caber­net sau­vi­gnon grapes that won’t be af­fected by smoke.

Bund­schu, a sixth-gen­er­a­tion vint­ner, re­counted a scary Mon­day night in which the flames licked at the perime­ter of the win­ery but were beaten back by firefighters. A cen­tury-old red­wood barn and her grand­mother’s 1919 home were spared. Gund­lach Bund­schu is the old­est fam­ily-run win­ery in Cal­i­for­nia, started in 1858.

She was ea­ger to dis­pel re­ports that the win­ery had been de­stroyed, as was Ni­chol­son Ranch win­ery, also in Sonoma County, which posted on Face­book that news of its demise was pre­ma­ture.

“The win­ery was in the path of the fire but es­caped be­ing en­gulfed by the flames. We have some dam­age to fix. The wine is se­cure in our cel­lars. We are clean­ing up and hop­ing to have the power back on this week,” it said.

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