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Winemakers survey the damage after wildfires

Oct 12,2017
SONOMA, Calif. - Worried California vintners surveyed the damage to their vineyards and wineries Tuesday after wildfires swept through several counties whose famous names have become synonymous with fine food and drink.

At the Gundlach Bundschu in Sonoma County, workers were not sure the grapes above the winery survived a second night of the fires that have destroyed at least two wineries and damaged more.

“We haven’t been able to go up and assess the vine damage,” said Katie Bundschu, vice president of sales. “We’re in the process of salvaging what we can.”

The speedy, wind-driven wildfires came as workers in both counties were picking and processing ripe grapes to make chardonnay, merlot and other wines that have made the region a global hot spot. Millions of locals and out-of-staters flock to Napa and Sonoma counties every year to sample wine, sit in mud baths and soak in the region’s natural beauty.

The Napa Valley Vintners trade association reported that at least four wineries belonging to members suffered “total or very significant losses” while at least nine others reported some damage. The group emphasized that it had not heard from all members, especially those in the most vulnerable parts of the valley.

About 90 percent of grapes had already been picked, the group added, with most of the remaining crop thick-skinned cabernet sauvignon grapes were not expected to be affected by the smoke.

Bundschu, a sixth-generation vintner, recounted a scary Monday night in which the flames licked at the perimeter of the winery but were beaten back by firefighters. A century-old redwood barn and her grandmother’s 1919 home were spared.

Gundlach Bundschu is the oldest family-run winery in California, started in 1858.

AP