1889 winery intact, but tasting room lost
The Nuns Fire reached Mayacamas Vineyards, one of Napa’s most iconic wine estates, near the top of Mount Veeder, on Wednesday.
But while one of the property’s historic buildings burned to the ground, the winery itself — a stone building constructed in 1889 — remains intact.
The burned structure, Mayacamas estate manager Jimmy Hayes confirmed, was a building they call “the residence.” It operates as a hospitality center for the winery (though Mayacamas is generally not open to the public for tastings). “If you imagine originally there was this freestanding stone distillery building, and on two occasions it was expanded upon to become a larger residence,” Hayes said. “That building was completely destroyed.”
Hayes had not yet been to the property when interviewed on Thursday morning but confirmed the extent of the damage after seeing pictures taken by a Chronicle photographer on Wednesday afternoon.
Although the residence held the personal wine and cigar collections of the Schottenstein family, which owns Mayacamas, it did not hold much of the Mayacamas wine library. Most of the oldest bottles still in the winery’s possession — Zinfandels dating back to the 1940s, Chardonnay to the 1950s, Cabernets to the 1960s — are kept in an off-site warehouse, said Hayes.
“We started harvest pretty early this year,” Hayes said, “so everything was picked.” Some of the estate’s Cabernets had been pressed and put to barrel already; others were still in various stages of fermentation. “We’re somewhere in the middle of pressings and maceration,” he said.
Those wines, and the past few vintages of Mayacamas that are still aging in barrel or bottle before being released to customers, look to be safe.
“It is kind of miraculous what happened up there,” Hayes said. “To see those pictures is really unbelievable.” He expects that winemaker Andy Erickson, viticulturist Phil Coturri and others should be able to reach the property by Friday.
Mayacamas has long been one of Napa Valley’s most recognizable names. Winemaker Bob Travers, who bought the winery in 1968, defined the early modern era of Napa Valley wine and made the Mayacamas wines among the world’s most sought-after. In 2013, he sold the winery to the Schottensteins and Charles Banks, who is also a founder of winery investment firm Terroir Capital. After Banks was convicted earlier this year of defrauding NBA player Tim Duncan, a financial advisee, and sentenced to four years in federal prison, the Schottensteins assumed full ownership of Mayacamas in September.
The Schottensteins are based in Ohio, but Hayes said they were on their way to Napa Valley.
“Seeing these pictures, I feel really hopeful about the winemaking,” Hayes said. “We were scared that we’d lose a couple years of inventory up there.”
Esther Mobley is The San Francisco Chronicle’s wine, beer and spirits writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @Esther_mobley
The burned remains of Mayacamas Vineyard’s private hospitality center, which also held the owners’ personal wine collection.