As of Wednesday morning, the Valley Fire has burned 70,000 acres with 30 percent containment. Nearly 2,800 firefighters from around the state are gaining ground on the fire in wet and drizzly conditions.
Many local growers and wineries have been surveyed on the impacts of the fire, and it is estimated that 85 percent of Lake County’s vineyards have not been affected by the fire.
Vineyard managers and employees are gaining access to resume irrigation and harvest operations. Beckstoffer Vineyards’ Amber Knolls is planning to harvest this evening, according to General Manager Pedro Rubio.
“We are an experienced and resilient farm community and committed to delivering the highest quality grapes despite these challenging conditions,” said Lake County Winegrape Commission President Debra Sommerfield.
Access to properties and restoration of power in the southern part of Lake County remains dependent upon on-going firefighting operations.
Since the start of the fire, vineyard reservoirs have been used as a source of water for fire-fighting efforts. Monica Rosenthal, owner of R Vineyards, said, “We are grateful that firefighters were able to fill their water tanks from our reservoir to help fight the fire.” The vineyards, located south of Middletown, also acted as a fire break helping to stop the fire from moving south toward Twin Pine Casino and beyond.
As of Wednesday, 90 percent of Lake County wineries in the fire-affected area have been able to resume operations or should be able to process fruit in this vintage, thanks to the enormous efforts of firefighters.
“I will be making wine tomorrow,” said winery owner Greg Graham whose winery was impacted by road closures. “My employees were able to get back in yesterday, and today we are focusing on getting ready to harvest fruit tomorrow morning.”
Jacquelyn Farrington, Director of Hospitality at Six Sigma Ranch & Winery reported that Brassfield has offered help with Six Sigma’s crush while the Ranch is still closed. “We are crushing Malbec at Brassfield on Thursday. While we have some access to the Ranch and know that our wines are safe and we have not suffered damage, we do not have power to run the crush equipment,” noted Farrington. “Matt Hughes, winemaker at Six Sigma is working closely with Jason Moulton, winemaker at Brassfield, to make sure that our final crush operations can proceed.”
Jerry Brassfield, owner of Brassfield Estate Winery said, “I am happy to help Kaj Alhmann (Six Sigma Ranch & Winery) anytime. I realize how important community is at a time like this and am so impressed with the way that people are handling this disaster. The Lake County community response is nothing short of remarkable.”
While vineyard operations and wineries are working to get back online, some employees are dealing with the loss of their homes. “We are deeply saddened by the reports of employees in the Lake County wine industry who have lost their homes but grateful for their safety,” said Lake County Winery Association Executive Director Terry Dereniuk. “The stories of loss are heartbreaking.”
To donate, please visit www.facebook.com/LakeCountyRising or #LakeCountyRising on Twitter to learn more about the Lake County Rising Fire Relief. Or send a check, made payable to Lake County Wine Alliance, memo “Lake County Rising Fire Relief Fund” to Lake County Wine Alliance, P.O. Box 530 Kelseyville, CA 95541.
For a complete fire update, evacuation orders, and road closures, go online to CalFIRE Incident Information at: http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents or call the Valley Fire information center at (707) 967-4207.