KENWOOD (CBS SF) — While there was video of vineyards engulfed in flames and social media reports of destroyed wineries as the flames tore through Sonoma County, on Tuesday the damage was not nearly as bad as one might have imagined.
Northern California’s Wine Country is known worldwide for its serene, pastoral beauty. But driving through it now, in some places it feels like you’re descending into Dante’s Inferno.
A day earlier, there had been reports that the venerable old Chateau St. Jean Winery in Kenwood had been destroyed.
“I think people just, maybe see flames and they get scared and they assume,” said Michelle Lacy, the Social Media Manager, Sonoma Valley Visitor’s Bureau. “Your adrenaline is pumping and so they’re putting out false facts.”
As it turned out, Chateau St. Jean waa still standing, even though a major trade magazine reported it had burned to the ground.
In fact almost all of Sonoma Valley’s wineries have been largely untouched by the flames.
READ MORE: Complete Wildfire Coverage
“If you got evacuated and you are sitting down in Petaluma and you’re watching Facebook and someone says a certain winery burned down and your home is next to it, it’s terrifying,” said Lacy.
To be sure, some wineries in Napa Valley have been destroyed. But in Kenwood and all across wine country, the looming problem is something that no one can avoid: the air.
“The smoke is so thick that the grapes that are still out there on the vine,” said Steve Schukler with Pernod Ricard Winemakers USA. “They can pick up what we call ‘smoke taint’ and that’ll get into the actual wine.”
Schukler currently can’t even get inside the Kenwood Winery because the fermenting grapes have filled the cellars with CO2 that cannot be vented off with no power to the buildings.
The lack of power also means the only food in the area is available from the Tips Roadside food truck. Currently, that company is building a new restaurant in the neighborhood between two wineries.
“We’ll also help everybody pull that together and help each other build back up,” said Tips Roadside Restaurant general manager Bill Howell.