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Update: Napa wildfires continue to burn wineries and homes

Northern Napa Valley remains on high alert as the devastating Glass Fire continues to cause damage across much of California’s wine country.

According to CBS, the fire – which began more than a week ago on 27th September – has grown to 262.6 sq. kilometers with 26% containment and has to date destroyed ‘at least 87 homes and 326 commercial buildings in Sonoma and Napa counties’.

Cal Fire has warned that this number will rise as they get a clearer picture of the devastation.

Among the commercial buildings destroyed many are wineries with several estates confirming damage last week, including the Meadowood Napa Valley resort, Burgess Cellars, Newton Vineyard and Castello di Amorosa (see updates below for further details on these estates).

Over the weekend a raft of other wineries have confirmed fire damage with the San Francisco Chronicle reporting that the Glass Fire has now damaged or destroyed 17 Napa Valley wineries.

Winemaker Scott Chafen from Dutch Henry Winery on Silverado Trail confirmed to the Chronicle that the winery has ‘burned’, while Fairwinds Estate Winery – also on Silverado – suffered a similar fate.

‘Most of the Fairwinds Winery and its Tasting Room has been very seriously damaged by the recent Napa Valley fires,’ a statement from the winery reported. ‘We are pleased to report our people are all safe. We hope to get creative and find ways to show you our wines in some other way on the property soon.’

Across the valley in Spring Mountain a handful of wineries have reported damage including Behrens, Cain, Flying Lady and Sherwin. ‘We thought we had massive defensible space,’ said Flying Lady owner David Nassar, who confirmed to the Chronicle that the recently renovated winery building has been destroyed, along with the 2016 and 2017 vintages of bottled wine.

Spring Mountain Vineyard, meanwhile, has experienced damage to its vineyards with the vineyard manager’s home and the 1873 La Perla winery destroyed. The estate’s main winery and the historic Miravelle Mansion were undamaged.

‘Here at SMV, thankfully everyone is safe, but the fire has taken a raging toll. Flame and intense heat quickly swept through the entire property and essentially vapourized most of our historic buildings that date back over a century,’ said Chairman and President Don Yannias. ‘I am grateful to report that our main winery, our caves and the legendary Miravella mansion were saved.’

At Hourglass Winery to the east of Calistoga, the winery and a 162-year-old guest house were destroyed. ‘These fires are serious and far from under control. Our Blueline Estate was unfortunately in nature’s furious path,’ said a statement on the Hourglass website. ‘The loss will take some time to settle in, but most importantly right now we are thankful that everyone on the Hourglass team remains safe and well.’

Elsewhere in the Valley Hunnicutt Wines was fire affected but its main building and wine cellars were saved. ‘While the Glass Fire did reach our property and caused significant structural damage, we are grateful for the amazing fire crews who protected the main building and kept our cave as secure as ever,’ said a statement from the winery.

You can donate to the Napa Valley Community Foundation fund here.


Updated 12.30pm UK time on Thursday 1st October 2020, by Chris Mercer. 

Cain winery has become one of the latest wine properties confirmed damaged by the fast-moving Glass Fire, as firefighters seek to contain the spread of the blaze to protect lives, homes and businesses.

More than 2,000 firefighters have been continuing to battle the Glass Fire, which began in the early hours of Sunday morning (27 September) and had burned through nearly 21,000 hectares (more than 51,000 acres) of land by 7pm local time on 30 September, according to the state fire service Cal Fire.

More than 100 homes have been destroyed across Napa and Sonoma counties, with large areas evacuated – including the city of Calistoga in northern Napa Valley. A further 26,290 structures were threatened, with the fire 2% contained, Cal Fire said.

Wineries have been among the properties damaged, although the full picture remains unclear with estate owners and winemakers only able to begin assessing the impact at some estates in the last couple of days.

After damage was confirmed at several estates, including the Meadowood Napa Valley resort, Burgess Cellars, Newton Vineyard and Castello di Amorosa (see update below), the celebrated Cain winery on Spring Mountain was also confirmed as having succumbed to the blaze –  along with the homes of three families who had been living at the estate.

‘When the three families living at Cain left our homes on Sunday evening, none of us could begin to imagine that we would never return,’ said Chris Howell, winemaker and general manager, and Katie Lazar, director of sales and marketing.

‘Nor could we think that the winery, the beautiful vintage of 2019, and some promising new wines of 2020 would be gone. But on Sunday night, all of this vanished.

‘For the families, the owners, the Meadlocks, and all of those who have worked at Cain, the loss is devastating, but still too soon to be fully understood.’

However, they echoed a sentiment of defiance expressed by several others in wine country this week. ‘All is not lost,’ said Howell and Lazar.

‘What remains are the amazing people of Cain, a large number of friends, supporters and customers of Cain, most of the magnificent Valley Oaks, much of the 90-acre (36ha) Cain Vineyard, and the wines, all safely stored in south Napa.’

Trade body Napa Valley Vintners has cautioned that it is too soon to assess the full impact of the damage from the Glass Fire.

It said it was ‘humbled’ by firefighters coming from all over the country to help protect lives, homes and wineries. ‘It is truly amazing what these extraordinary people do to help others,’ it said on Twitter.

Fire crews from Los Angeles were yesterday pictured attempting to set up fire breaks by removing ‘fuel’ from the blaze’s path.

Several winery owners have already promised to rebuild what has been lost. A spokesperson for Meadowood – where damage was still being assessed – said that founder and managing partner Bill Harlan would rebuild ‘even better’ than before. All staff were safe, having evacuated early, he said.

At Burgess Cellars, where the winery was destroyed, co-owner Carlton McCoy Jr said the team was thankful that no one was hurt. ‘While we are devastated by the loss of these great heritage structures, we were heartened to hear that the vineyards were mainly spared,’ added McCoy Jr, who recently purchased the estate alongside the Lawrence family, owner of Heitz Cellar.

There have also been stories of bravery and near misses. Rombauer, lying on the Silverado Trail (north), said on Twitter, ‘THANK YOU to the brave firefighters that continue to protect our winery. Because of their tireless work, the winery and all other structures on the property remain standing. Our hearts go out to our wine country community and all neighbors impacted by the wildfires.’

In a sign of how unpredictable the fire impact can be, Seven Stones, lying just above the Meadowood Resort, had also survived largely intact, according to winemaker Aaron Pott.

He said on Instagram, ‘Many have asked the fate of Seven Stones. I am happy to say that thus far it still stands. We lost the tower and a few vines but the house and the winery are fine.’

Napa Valley Vintners thanked those who have sent wishes and also those who have donated to the Napa Valley Community Foundation disaster relief fund. It also said local businesses were providing clothing, food and shelter to those affected.

The California Wine Institute said that it is ‘deeply saddened for the friends, neighbours and winery colleagues who have been impacted by the fires’.

However, it also sought to reiterate to those beyond the region that the majority of the state’s vineyards and wineries have been untouched by wildfires.

Fires have been causing concern across the US west coast in the past few weeks, across California, Oregon and Washington state.

While there has been no loss of life reported during the Glass Fire so far, Cal Fire said that 29 people have died due to wildfires in California alone this year.


Updated at 17:30 UK time on Tuesday 29 September by Chris Mercer.

Wildfires have led to a state of emergency being declared in Napa, Sonoma and Shasta counties by California’s governor, Gavin Newsom.

In Napa Valley wine country, thousands of residents were forced to evacuate, including those in the city of Calistoga and patients at a hospital near to St. Helena, after the Glass Fire ignited in the Deer Park area and quickly burned through more than 17,000 hectares (42,560 acres) of land in around 48 hours.

The Glass Incident fires were 0% contained by 7am Tuesday local time, said state fire service Cal Fire. It reported no deaths or injuries in the area, but more than 100 structures were destroyed, including homes, with around 10,700 under threat.

Damage has been confirmed at some wineries, although access to properties was still limited in some cases and trade body Napa Valley Vintners cautioned that it was too soon to properly assess the impact on the wine sector.

Among the property damaged was the renowned Meadowood Napa Valley resort. A spokesperson told Decanter.com today (29 September) that all staff were safe and well, having evacuated early, but that the team has not been able to visit the resort to properly assess the fire’s impact.

‘We don’t yet have an idea about the extent of the damage,’ spokesperson Brett Anderson said, explaining that the team might be able to access the site on Tuesday or perhaps the day after.

Whatever the outcome, he said that Meadowood founder and managing partner Bill Harlan intended to rebuild the much-loved social hub of Napa Valley wine ‘better than ever’. He said the Harlan family were grateful for many messages of support received and added that ‘Meadowood will be a partner in helping to rebuild the whole community’.

The winery at Burgess Cellars on Howell Mountain was destroyed, according to the Lawrence family and master sommelier Carlton McCoy Jr, who only announced their purchase of the historic estate on 11 September.

The new owners said that a full damage assessment had not been possible as yet, but that they were encouraged by reports of minimal damage to the vineyards.

‘We are incredibly grateful that our team members are unharmed,’ said McCoy Jr. ‘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.’

He added, ‘While we are devastated by the loss of these great heritage structures, we were heartened to hear that the vineyards were mainly spared. We look forward to many more great vintages once we can rebuild the winery.’

Damage was also confirmed at Newton Vineyard estate, the LVMH-owned winery on Spring Mountain.

‘It is with heavy hearts that we inform you all that the Newton Estate winery and vineyards have been significantly impacted by the recent Glass fire in Northern California,’ said general manager Jean-Baptiste Rivail.

‘Thankfully, all our people were evacuated safely. We are actively providing immediate around-the-clock support and assistance for them now and over the coming months. All facilities will be closed as we assess the damage, until further notice.’

He added, ‘Moet Hennessy intends to do whatever it takes to rebuild this truly special place.’

Several other wineries and estates were also reported to have suffered at least some damage. They included Castello di Amorosa, according to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle. Media reports and images have also shown shown flames and damage at Chateau Boswell.

Napa Valley vintners (NVV) said on Twitter that it was ‘a rapidly evolving situation and we are rapidly getting both stories of loss and stories of bravery from our members and community. It will be some time before we know the extent of the damage.’

A spokesperson for NVV told Decanter.com on Monday, ‘Our hearts go out to the families directly impacted. We are grateful to the first responders, law enforcement personnel, community leaders and volunteers who are working tirelessly to help our communities.’

Other wineries located just off the Silverado Trail (north) reported near misses and joined the many voices expressing thanks to the emergency services.

Rombauer vineyards said on Twitter, ‘THANK YOU to the brave firefighters that continue to protect our winery. Because of their tireless work, the winery and all other structures on the property remain standing. Our hearts go out to our wine country community and all neighbors impacted by the wildfires.’

Ehren Jordan, owner and winemaker at Failla Wines, posted an image of his intact winery on Instagram. He said that reports of his winery being burned were ‘very much inaccurate’.

He added, ‘Through the valiant efforts of our amazing Firefighters we have survived to harvest another day. I’m sobered by the destruction I’ve seen and continue to hold out hope that we can gain the upper hand on these tragic fires.’

Two other fires have led to evacuation orders – the Boysen fire north-east of Santa Rosa and the Shady fire to the west of St-Helena – according to NBC Bay Area news.

California governor Newsom has also declared a state of emergency in Shasta county further north, due to the Zogg fire, and the latest fire concerns follow a difficult month across the US west coast.

Since 15 August, there have been 26 deaths in California due to wildfires, with more than 7,000 structures destroyed, said Cal Fire in its daily update on 28 September. More than 18,000 firefighters remain on the front lines, it said.

In some parts of California, Oregon and Washington state, laboratories have been inundated with requests to test grapes being picked in the 2020 harvest for signs of smoke taint.

Prior to the latest wine country fires, wine industry leaders warned that it is too soon to judge the impact of smoke, and several producers had reported good quality fruit coming into the cellars.


Original story published on 28 September at 17:42 UK time by Chris Mercer. 

Wildfire forces evacuations in Napa Valley wine country

Homes and properties have been evacuated in some areas, including a hospital near to St. Helena and luxury resort Meadowood Napa Valley, due to the fast-spreading Glass Fire.

More than 4,400 hectares of land (11,000 acres) have been scorched in around 24 hours by the Glass Fire, which began near to the Deer Park area of Napa County, said state fire service Cal Fire on Monday morning (28 September).

Patients at the Adventist Health Hospital in St. Helena had to be evacuated as more than 1,000 firefighters sought to combat the fast-moving blaze.

Evacuation orders also covered the Meadowood Napa Valley luxury resort. Nearby tasting rooms, including those at Charles Krug winery and Duckhorn Vineyards, were closed to visitors on Sunday.

Duckhorn said on Twitter on Monday morning, ‘Thanks to the heroic efforts of fire crews last night, Duckhorn Vineyards is standing tall, and our staff (including our beloved winery cat Kitter) is out of harm’s way. Our hearts go out to our neighbors during this difficult time. The winery will remain closed today.’

Charles Krug also reported that its ‘team, vineyard and winery are safe. ‘We are extremely grateful that the first responders continue to work tirelessly protecting everything they can,’ it said on Twitter.

Media images appeared to show buildings at Chateau Boswell winery on fire, although the extent of any damage was not known.

Cal Fire said in an incident report on Monday morning that no structures had been destroyed by the Glass Fire, although around 8,500 were under threat and the blaze was 0% contained. There was concern, too, about a ‘red flag warning’ of high winds, which can hinder containment.

Trade body Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) used Twitter to thank fire crews and first responders for their ‘amazing work’.

A spokesperson for NVV said on Monday morning, ‘The Glass Fire in Napa County is a rapidly evolving situation, and our hearts go out to the families directly impacted.

‘We are grateful to the first responders, law enforcement personnel, community leaders and volunteers who are working tirelessly to help our communities. We do not know the extent of damage at this time.’

Two other fires have also led to evacuation orders – the Boysen fire north-east of Santa Rosa and the Shady fire to the west of St-Helena – according to NBC Bay Area news.

The latest fire concerns follow a difficult month across the US west coast.

Since 15 August, there have been 26 deaths in California due to wildfires, with more than 7,000 structures destroyed. ‘More than 17,000 firefighters remain on the front lines,’ said Cal Fire.

While damage to vineyards has been extremely limited in the overall context of the state’s wine industry, laboratories have been inundated with requests to test grapes being picked in the 2020 harvest for signs of smoke taint.

Again, trade bodies and producers have said it’s too soon to know the scale of any issue, with several wineries reporting good quality fruit coming into the cellars. However, a group of leading wine bodies across California, Oregon and Washington have also warned that some growers faced financial difficulties after seeing their fruit rejected by buyers due to smoke taint concerns.

Updated at 19:40 UK time on 28 September to include additional comment from Napa Valley Vintners.

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