CALISTOGA (KPIX) – The Glass Fire in Napa County is having a profound impact on local wineries and those who depend on the visitors they attract. Some wineries have been devastated by it, while most have been untouched by the flames entirely. But make no mistake. Everyone is being affected by it.
Some of the wineries along Silverado Trail suffered only minor losses like an array of solar panels bordering the burned hillside at the Davis Estates Winery. But farther up the road, Fairwinds Estate Winery has been devastated. The tasting room, bottling operation and fermentation tanks were all under the same roof and now the wines stored in barrels appear to be a total loss.
The fire also had its way with Hourglass Winery. Owner Jeff Smith said the fire circled around on the ridge above for about 24 hours before it finally dropped down early Monday morning onto the property. The 160-year-old residence that served as a welcome center for guests has been leveled. It also melted the plastic roof over the tanks, probably destroying the 2020 vintage that has been fermenting for a few weeks now.
But Smith says, because 2019’s wine was protected in an underground cave, the business will at least have some revenue this year.
“It’s a confluence of drought and climate change and a variety of different other factors…it’s very difficult,” Smith said. “I don’t think winemaking has ever been for the faint of heart, you know?”
But even wineries that escaped the fire are still feeling the pinch. Road closures, power outages and foul air have killed the tourist trade, for now, as the streets of St. Helena and Calistoga look deserted. That’s not only halting wine sales but every other hospitality business.
Ed Brown was buying gas for the generator at his Napa Farmhouse Inn bed and breakfast that had been without power for 36 hours.
“It’s screwing with our business, big time,” he said, shaking his head. “We’re losing customers left and right. We lost them to COVID and now we’re losing them to the fires. It’s tough times.”
Napa Valley is more than just a farm region. It is a place of serene beauty, a symbol of the “good life.” But now fires, foul air, a global pandemic — not exactly the kind of thing you put in a travel magazine to attract tourists.
“Yeah, you stack a few of these on top of each other and it starts to have a psychological effect,” said Hourglass’s Jeff Smith. “But we’re an incredibly resilient community and I think everybody’ll fight back.”
Eventually, the air will clear and blackened hillsides will be green again and the tourists will return. And those who stayed to rebuild will be rewarded for not being “faint of heart.”