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Napa Valley Businesses Speak on Damage Amid the Devastating Glass Fire

by Alex Bresler Sep 29, 2020

Napa Valley’s Château Boswell Winery made headlines yesterday as one of several landmark properties that have been destroyed or damaged by the wildfires tearing through Northern California’s wine country. At least 113 structures have been razed by the Glass Incident fire, which comprises the Glass, Shady, and Boysen Fires. Late last night, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Napa and Sonoma Counties after the blaze tripled in size, extending the order to Shasta County due to the Zogg fire burning farther north.

An institution on the Silverado Trail, the famed wine route connecting the cities of Napa and Calistoga, Château Boswell was among the first boutique wineries in Napa Valley. On Sunday, the privately owned family winery, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in St. Helena last year, was reduced to rubble along with its prized wine collection dating to 1979. “We are simply heartbroken,” owner Susan Boswell told the San Francisco Chronicle via email.

Château Boswell has not been the only newsworthy loss in St. Helena. The Black Rock Inn, a boutique bed and breakfast on the Silverado Trail, burned late on Sunday. The renowned Meadowood Napa Valley resort also sustained serious damage, including the loss of the famed Restaurant at Meadowood, which earned its third Michelin star in 2011.

Executive Chef Chris Kostow took to Instagram yesterday to lament the loss, writing, “We are all torn apart … for now, I want to thank all of the TRAMily that have ever graced this magical space — and all of the guests over the years who have enjoyed the efforts of these multitudes.”

Meadowood’s director of culture and communications, Brett Anderson, also commented Monday. “We don’t know the extent of the damage,” he told Wine Spectator, “but we have the photos of the fire posted by first responders on social media and are heartbroken.” He later stated, “We’re going to reopen and we believe that the Napa Valley as it has in the past will experience a renaissance after this.”

According to Wine Spectator, Tuck Beckstoffer Winery also lost everything but its winery while Hourglass Winery in Calistoga lost its “Blueline vineyard adjacent to Calistoga Ranch.”

Calistoga Ranch reported ruin of its own. Like Meadowood, the luxury Auberge Resort has been one of the most talked-about and sought-after accommodations in Napa Valley since it opened in 2004. “At this time, we know the resort has been extensively damaged by the fire,” spokesperson Jessica Rothschild told SFGATE.

Fewer than three miles away on the Silverado Trail, the Fairwinds Estate Winery fell victim to the same flames. Per an update posted to the winery’s website, “Most of the Fairwinds Winery and its Tasting Room have been seriously damaged by the recent Napa Valley fires. We hope to get creative and find ways to show you our wines in some other way on the property soon. We are pleased to report that our people are safe. Our hearts go out to friends and neighbors, many of whom have lost their homes and all their belongings.”

Other iconic properties in Calistoga are reporting partial damage. The 120-year-old barn at Tofanelli Vineyards has burned, endangering the site’s nearly 100-year-old vines. Castello di Amorosa, an attraction on Highway 128 owing to its grand medieval-style Tuscan manor, saw its farmhouse destroyed. Photographs and videos posted to Twitter show the winery’s employees attempting to put out the flames themselves. Though the “lab is gone, offices are gone, [and] the wine was destroyed,” according to owner Dario Sattui, the “castle” itself is still standing.

As of Monday evening, the entire city of Calistoga has been ordered to evacuate.

At the time of writing, the Glass Incident wildfire has burned 36,236 acres and is zero percent contained, according to Cal Fire. This leaves several other Napa Valley estates in jeopardy, among them the Reverie, Davis Estates, Ledson, Schramsberg, and Viader wineries.

While firefighters have been monitoring Viader Vineyards on Howell Mountain, the nearby Burgess Cellars was not so lucky. The CEO of Heitz Cellar, which recently purchased the almost 50-year-old family-run Deer Park vineyard, said 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 community at large during this unpredictable time.”

As reports of more damage and destruction flood in, at least two wineries have taken to social media to announce that they have been spared from the flames. Failla Wine Company owner Ehren Jordan posted on Instagram that the winery has “survived to harvest another day” while Duckhorn Vineyards posted on social media yesterday morning that it’s “standing tall” and its staff is “out of harm’s way” thanks to the “heroic efforts of fire crew last night.”

This is not the first wildfire season that has ravaged Northern California’s wine country. The recent inferno is reminiscent of the Tubbs and Nuns Fires that tore through Napa, Sonoma, and Lake Counties in 2017. At the time, the Tubbs Fire was classed as the worst wildfire in the state’s history, with much of the devastation centering on Santa Rosa. The current Glass Incident has also destroyed a number of homes in Santa Rosa’s Skyhawk neighborhood.

Though the safety of the Napa Valley residents affected by the current blazes is of the highest importance, that the Glass Incident has claimed or damaged at least a dozen notable wineries and accommodations speaks to the severity of the wildfire. As those behind the businesses lost begin to address the public, most have expressed the same sentiments: They’re left only with heavy hearts, hopes for their neighbors’ safety, and a vague optimism about rebuilding in Napa Valley’s increasingly wildfire-threatened wine country.

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