By Brian German
Some Sonoma winegrowers were resilient in their commitment to finish the season, working to get the remainder of vineyards harvested even after the Kincade Fire broke out last week. President of the Sonoma County Winegrowers, Karissa Kruse noted that growers were about 92 percent of the way through harvest when the fire initially broke out on October 23.
“We did see a big push on Thursday, Friday and into early Saturday morning to get as many grapes off that were ready as possible. So, I think we got another three percent off the vine in that two and a half-day push around the county,” said Kruse. “Once we went into evacuation mode on Saturday, it’s been a pretty hard stop for most of the county.”
Working with the county Ag Commissioner and the Sheriff’s office, many growers were able to back get into their vineyards to harvest their remaining crops in areas that were safe. Allied Grape Growers confirmed that the majority of their Sonoma winegrowers had finished picking their crops. Even after the fire started some people were able to power through the end of their harvest. One grower reported that although they were able to finish picking the fruit, they ran into an issue during delivery as the winery was without power and a way to dump the truck. However, not all the grapes in the region were able to be harvested despite the best efforts of winegrowers.
“Some growers probably won’t even harvest; part of that will be driven on whether they can even safely get in there or whether they would want to take a crew into areas where there would be an impact,” said Kruse. “Again, we’re so fortunate at this point we have less than five percent of the grapes left on the vine, so overall impact to the ’19 vintage is really, really small.”
While Kruse noted that it is still relatively early to provide detailed information on the type of impact the fire has had on the wine industry, there have been multiple reports of damage to several operations. The historic buildings of Soda Rock Winery suffered significant fire damage, essentially destroying some of the structures that were more than 100 years old. Structures belonging to Field Stone Winery also suffered varying degrees of damage.
First responders from several different departments are working to control the fire while multiple agencies including the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) are working to provide relief and assistance to those affected.
“We oversee fairgrounds and fairgrounds are a vital component of safe evacuation shelters for people and their animals,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “That’s become a critical component that only fairgrounds are equipped to deal with. Then we also coordinate with all the local animal control officers to make sure that we’re getting those animals removed and into a safe place and if they need veterinary care and medical supplies.”