NAPA (KPIX 5) — Exactly one year after the most destructive fires in state history laid waste to parts of wine country, a pair of local wineries are rising from the ashes.
The family-owned Signorello Estate winery on the Silverado Trail became one of the worst casualties of the Napa wildfires.
“This behind us is where the building stood. and that sign is just a little piece of what we are,” said owner Ray Signorello. “It’s Signorello and that’s what’s left and one day that will be gone and one day there will be a nice building behind us.”
Signorello Estate shared renderings of the design for its new winery. It will break ground Tuesday, one day and a year after flames wiped out some 40 years of his family’s legacy in minutes.
The winery, it’s offices and owner Ray Signorello’s home on the property were gone.
But no one was hurt. And Signorello isn’t going anywhere.
“That’s the great part about really what happened to us. The silver lining is that we still have the vineyards — the old vines — to fuel the facility,” said Signorello. “So we’ll have some of the older vines in Napa and we’ll probably have the newest winery in Napa to go together.”
Most of Signorello’s wines were stored off-site when the fire hit. Those were saved. And most of Napa Valley’s grapes had been picked off the vines before the wildfires.
There are obvious reminders of what happened at the location, like an empty infinity pool.
But the wine glasses here haven’t been sitting empty. Signorello opened a temporary tasting room this summer to keep people coming through its doors. And it maintained its hospitality staff of 35.
The night of the fire, Signorello’s wife was staying at their home on the property.
“What I didn’t know — because I wasn’t here on property; I was out of town — was the winds were 50 mph, the humidity was about 10 percent. Kind of the perfect storm for a fire that we had, a wildfire,” remembered Signorello. “So my wife grabbed what she wanted off the walls, what she could get, ran out the door.”
That same night about 25 miles to the northwest in Santa Rosa, a similar kind of panic was experienced by Rene Byck and his sister Sonia Byck-Barwick, the owners of Paradise Ridge Winery.
“My husband who’s our winemaker, jumped in his car and he tried to get to the property,” said Byck-Barwick. “And by the time he tried to get to the property we live a little north of here, there was just a wall of fire.”
By daylight, Paradise Ridge Winery declared its property a total loss. The tasting room and event space were decimated. 8,000 cases of wine — including the entire 2017 vintage — went up in flames.
Paradise Ridge Winery is a popular venue for special events and weddings. One of the big draws for couples getting married is the iconic steel love sign.
After the fires tore through the grounds, all of the steel sculptures in the garden survived. Today they symbolize hope and resilience for Paradise Ridge and Sonoma County.
“That was a really beautiful thing during a tragic time,” said Byck.
The owners are looking at about $15 million dollars in damages, Insurance may cover about a third. Luckily most of their vineyards survived and this year’s harvest looks very full.
“This harvest meant a lot to us, because when you lose everything, in terms of your grapes and your wine, it’s very disheartening,” said Byck-Barwick “So the coming of this harvest was highly anticipated by us and our team.”
Once they complete the permitting process to rebuild, they hope to reopen in the fall of next year.
In the meantime, they’re making wines in nearby Dry Creek Valley.
“We could use the support. We want people to know we’re open for business,” said Byck-Barwick. “We appreciate everyone who comes out here and that’s probably the best way to support the people who were affected and the communities affected by the fires.”