Napa Valley wineries face fury of latest California wildfire as 2020 damages mount

The Glass Fire is one of nearly 30 wildfires burning around California

A fast-moving wildfire that's spurred massive evacuations in California's Napa Valley has charred several wineries, adding more hardship to an industry that's already suffering from a challenging wine grape harvest.

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On the third day of raging mostly uncontained, the Glass Fire caused damage to wineries in Calistoga and St. Helena, where mandatory evacuations have been ordered. Cal Fire said late Tuesday the Glass Fire has scorched some 48,400 acres in Napa and Sonoma counties and is now up to 2% containment after being uncontained since sparking on Sunday.

"Firefighters have hopefully gained the upper hand with winds having died down significantly from Monday," Sonoma County Communications Manager Paul Gullixson said at a briefing on Tuesday.

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The wildfire has destroyed 113 structures, including 52 homes in Napa County and 28 in Sonoma County, and more than 22,500 remain threatened. Officials have not yet determined the cause of the blaze.

Flames from the Glass Fire consume Chateau Boswell Winery in St. Helena, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The blaze has torn through many iconic wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties as well as the five-starred Meadowood Resort, home to a three-Michelin-starred restaurant.

Cellar worker Jose Juan Perez sprays water on burning debris at Castello di Amorosa, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, in Calistoga, Calif., which was damaged in the Glass Fire. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The Castello di Amorosa winery lost 120,000 bottles of wine in the fire – worth about $5 million – after the flames came up a canyon on the east side of the Calistoga winery and burned a building on the property, but the $30 million castle made it through unscathed.

Winery workers Carlos Perez, left, and Jose Juan Perez extinguish hotspots at Castello di Amorosa, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, in Calistoga, Calif., which was damaged in the Glass Fire. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Employees had already returned on Tuesday after a farmhouse burned, and were back to work crushing grapes.

Charred wine bottles rest at Castello di Amorosa, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, in Calistoga, Calif., which was damaged in the Glass Fire. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

“It’s unfortunate,” Georg Salzner, president of Castello di Amorosa, told The Mercury News. “But we cannot just stop, so we will be crushing grapes and we will immediately be starting on renovations.”

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The popular mansion-like Chateau Boswell winery was destroyed Sunday night as the blaze tripled in size.

The Hunnicutt Winery in St. Helena said that it "survived," but said it sustained some damage.

"We lost the Stafford house, our landscaping is toast (literally), but most of our outdoor equipment made it through the fire storm," the winery posted on Facebook. "Our main building with the tasting room, admin office and production office is still standing with minimal damage!"

The Glass Fire struck midway through the traditional grape-harvesting season in Napa and Sonoma counties, which were already impacted by a cluster of large wildfires earlier this summer.

Vintners said Tuesday the Glass Fire is now forcing them to wrap up this season's harvest as soon as possible, due to fruit left on the vines being exposed to yet more wildfire smoke.

An air tanker drops retardant on the Glass Fire burning in Calistoga, Calif., on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

“I think harvest is largely over,” Pat Roney, the chief executive officer of Vintage Wine Estates of Santa Rosa, told the Press Democrat.

The Glass Fire also appears to have caused a much greater scope of destruction than the 2017 fires that roasted through Wine Country. Three years ago, six Napa wineries saw damage or were destroyed, while there are at least 12 so far this time according, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

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The full effect from this year's wildfires on the region’s wine business remained to be seen but Michael Haney, executive director of the Sonoma County Vintners trade group, told Reuters that vintners would likely scale back production of certain wines due to smoke exposure to grapes still on the vines when the fires struck.

In this Sept. 10, 2020, file photo, smoke and haze from wildfires hovers over a vineyard in Sonoma, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

“I do know there are wineries saying we have been impacted and we won’t be making as much wine,” he said.

The Glass Fire is one of nearly 30 wildfires burning around California as the state has faced a record-breaking 2020 in terms of wildfire losses.

The state has already seen more than 8,100 wildfires that have killed 29 people, scorched 5,780 square miles and destroyed more than 7,000 buildings.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.