The Kincade Fire that has devastated Sonoma County over the past six days continues to wreak havoc in the area, having burned nearly 76,000 acres and forcing the evacuation of more than 200,000 people.
Previously, as of Saturday, evacuations had been in place for residents of Geyserville, Healdsburg, Windsor, and those living in western Mendocino. But powerful 90 mph “Diablo” winds over the weekend prevented efforts to contain the fire.
Millions of Californians are without power after Pacific Gas and Electric Company forced a historical blackout on Sunday. As of Monday morning, mandatory evacuations have been expanded to include northeast Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, and western parts of Sonoma County.
According to Wine Spectator, an evacuation warning is in effect for Calistoga and areas north, implemented in case the fire should move southeast from Sonoma.
While Napa Valley has been spared thus far, the fire has destroyed several Alexander Valley wineries, including Sonoma’s historic Soda Rock Winery, leaving just the stone facade and a 20-foot steel sculpture of a boar standing in its path.
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“I’m still in a fog. It’s still surreal,” Ken Wilson, Soda Rock’s owner, told the San Francisco Chronicle. Wilson’s entire 2019 vintage and much of his wine inventory has been lost. But the most painful loss for Wilson is the Soda Rock building itself, a 19th-century structure he helped restore.
“I spent a good five years of my life passionately involved in that restoration. How do I get those years back? It’s a huge loss to the community,” Wilson added.
In addition to Soda Rock, The Spire Collection at Field Stone Winery, another Healdsburg-based winery, was also seriously damaged in the fire.
One small source of relief: Nearly 80 percent of Alexander Valley’s grape harvest was well under way, according to Michael Haney, the executive director of the Sonoma County Vintners trade group. Being home to almost 15,000 acres of vineyards, that’s a lot of grapes that may have been spared.
Alexander Valley Vineyards escaped with minor damage, but is one of the unlucky vineyards that still has grapes on the vine. With no electricity, the winery’s owner Hank Wetzel fears the grapes could likely rot.
“We just don’t know if we are going to get them picked at this point,” Wetzel told The Press Democrat. If not harvested in time, the vineyard could stand to lose 500 tons of grapes.
Patrick Cappiello, restaurateur, sommelier, and founder of the Occidental-based winery Monte Rio Cellars, fled Sonoma to Napa Valley on Saturday evening. Speaking to VinePair while looking out of his window towards Sonoma yesterday, Cappiello said it looked like an “atomic bomb” had detonated.
Those hoping to help the winemaking community should “be aware, spread the word, and be prepared to assist,” Cappiello says. When fires hit northern California in 2017, Cappiello worked with friends Pax Mahle and Sara Morgenstern to establish the Winemakers and Sommeliers for California Wildfire Relief (WSCWR) charity.
At the time of publishing, he’s uncertain whether the WSCWR will be back for more events this year, but he says to stay tuned. In the meantime, he plans to offer updates on how to help via his social media accounts.
Tragically, this is not the only fire Californians are currently enduring. On Monday morning, a new blaze known as the Getty Fire prompted evacuations in western Los Angeles after consuming 500 acres in the area. The New York Times reports that, as of 9 a.m. local time on October 28, there have been no serious injuries or fatalities.