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California fires: Sonoma wineries evacuated mid-harvest

Fires burning across parts of California are growing rapidly, with some wineries in Sonoma and Napa counties forced to evacuate mid-harvest.

Image: Martinelli Winery, showing the view from its Bondi Home Ranch Vineyard in Sebastopol.

According to the latest figures from Cal Fire, the so-called LNU Lightning Complex, which includes the Hennessey Fire in Napa and the Wallbridge Fire in Sonoma, is growing rapidly.

The Hennessey Fire, which is threatening parts of wine country, now covers an area of 100,000 acres, while the Wallbridge Fire, west of Healdsburg, has grown to 14,000 acres.

Cal Fire said yesterday (19 August) that the region had seen almost 11,000 lightning strikes in 72 hours and over 367 new fires started, with 23 considered major incidents.

Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, told the media that the state was experiencing fires “the likes of which we haven’t seen in many, many years”.

In Sonoma, fires are burning in the Sonoma Coast, Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley AVAs. An evacuation warning has also been issued for the entire city of Healdsburg. Sparkling wine specialist Korbel, Gary Farrell Vineyards and Fort Ross Vineyard are among the producers in the evacuation zone, according to the Press Democrat. This has happened as producers in the county begin their harvest.

Other wineries in the state which remain unaffected have had to cancel outdoor tastings and visits due to poor air quality.

Ridge Vineyards has closed its Lytton Springs tasting room due to the drifting smoke, Martinelli Winery has cancelled all its tasting reservations due to the changing conditions and Merry Edwards has also said it will not be hosting outdoor tastings.

In a statement published on social media, Sonoma County Winegrowers said: “Our thoughts are with our winegrowers in Dry Creek Valley and West County who are dealing with evacuations and fire danger right at the start of the harvest season. Please know we are here to help you in any way possible.”

Wineries affected by evacuations that require assistance are advised to contact president of Somoma Winegrowers, Karissa Kruse, on

In Napa, where the Hennessey Fire is raging, evacuation orders have now been issued for parts of Atlas Peak, though the fire has moved south-east, away from the main vine-growing areas. It has been reported that the fires caused damage to outbuildings belonging to Nichelini Family Winery, while the Kulenta Estate and Kenzo Estate fall within the mandatory evacuation zone, but remain unaffected.

In a statement published yesterday, industry group Napa Valley Vintners said that the fire has so far spared the valley floor but put “some of our mountain vineyards in the east in danger”.

“The latest reports indicate that, while some houses have been lost, our mountain wineries in the eastern hills are safe for now. Unfortunately, the fire moving east is not good for our neighbors in Solano County, Vacaville specifically. Many people who work in Napa live in the Vacaville/Solano area and our concern now is with their safety,” the statement added.

Large fires are also burning in parts of Monterey, Mendocino and Santa Cruz.

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