Northern California Wineries Remain Imperiled as Wildfires Rage On; Economic Impact Estimated at $6B

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In less than a week, some California wineries have lost everything. Others aren’t sure — the owners still can’t go back to assess the damage.

Charred wine barrels sit on racks at Paradise Ridge Winery after being destroyed by the Tubbs Fire on Oct. 11, 2017, in Santa Rosa. (Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Charred wine barrels sit on racks at Paradise Ridge Winery after being destroyed by the Tubbs Fire on Oct. 11, 2017, in Santa Rosa. (Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

As 17 wildfires continue to rage across the northern part of the state, many vintners remain under evacuation orders. They’ve been forced to piece together the destruction from news photos and internet heat maps, attempting to determine which buildings have survived.

As of Friday afternoon, almost 222,000 acres of the state have burned and at least 36 people have died as the wind-fueled blazes ripped through the heart of California’s wine region, including Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

RMS, a firm that predicts the economic impact of disasters, has estimated that property damage and interruption to business will cost the region between $3 billion and $6 billion.

Andrew Cates, the owner of Segassia Vineyard in Napa, said he hasn’t been allowed to visit his property yet. He expects to return and find the entire place destroyed, based on what he’s heard from a neighbor with a security camera.

“I’m pretty confident that I’ve got a 100% loss for the property,” Cates told CNNMoney. “The house, the wine cellar. I’m the largest owner in the world of Segassia Vineyard wine, which was all in my wine cellar.”

Segassia produces high-end Cabernets. Bottles can sell for up to $750, Cates said.

The remains of the Signorello Estate Winery in Napa are seen from the air Oct. 11, 2017. (Credit: Elijah Nouvelage / AFP / Getty Images)

The remains of the Signorello Estate Winery in Napa are seen from the air Oct. 11, 2017. (Credit: Elijah Nouvelage / AFP / Getty Images)

At the moment, he doesn’t expect to be able to produce a 2017 vintage. The grapes were supposed to be picked this Saturday.

Kathryn Reynolds, the sales director at the Roy Estate vineyard in Napa Valley, also hasn’t returned to survey the scene. She’s only heard about the wreckage from the property owner, who was able to visit on Wednesday with a police escort.

“The main house where we did the tastings is completely demolished,” she said. “The guest cottage is in ruins. The only thing standing [is] the brick chimney from the house.”

The barn, she said, looks like it’s melted in half.

Fortunately, the Roy Estate vineyard appears to be unharmed, and they’ve already picked the majority of the fruit. There’s inventory — just nowhere to host visitors.

“The pictures look like a bomb hit. Not even a fire,” Reynolds said. “There’s rubble everywhere.”

Melted wine bottles are seen among the burned out remains of the Signorello Estate Winery in Napa on Oct. 11, 2017. (Credit: Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images)

Melted wine bottles are seen among the burned-out remains of the Signorello Estate Winery in Napa on Oct. 11, 2017. (Credit: Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images)

Jimmy Hayes, the estate manager at Mayacamas Vineyards in Napa, said he only knows about the damage at his winery because a photographer with the San Francisco Chronicle went to take pictures.

The photos show that a building where Mayacamas hosts guests has completed burned down, but the place where they make and age wine is untouched.

“We’re super, super hopeful that when we get our bodies up there — which we’ll do as soon as they’ll let us — the winery [will be] intact and the wines inside [will be] intact as well,” Hayes said.

Still, he’s worried about what comes next, and is concerned the fire will return.

“The situation in Napa and Sonoma is very active and very volatile,” Hayes said. “We’re happy that to this point that we’ve seen some good news, but we’re really, really concerned that … the situation could get worse if the weather changes.”

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