While fire activity in the Glass Fire continues to be calmer than it was just days ago, the fallout from the fire is still being assessed — and the economic impacts to both the wine industry and Napa and Sonoma counties at large may be far greater than the size of the fire may suggest.
Thankfully, there were no deaths in the Glass Fire, as there have been in the LNU Lightning Complex fire — which burned up to the eastern edges of the Glass Fire — and the Zogg, North Complex, and August Complex fires to the north. There was, however, a lot of property destroyed. While the LNU Complex burned over 363,000 acres across six counties and destroyed 1,490 structures, the Glass Fire is going to clock in a fraction of the size — currently it's at 66,870 acres — but nearly as much if not more property destruction, with 1,410 structures destroyed and counting. At least 553 single-family homes have been burned to the ground in this fire, about half in each of Sonoma and Napa counties, and over 200 commercial properties have been destroyed, including wineries.
While the Atlas Fire did some damage in Napa County three years ago, destroying over 700 structures and claiming six lives, the damage to wineries was far less dramatic than what we've seen so far in the Glass Fire.
KRON4 reports that the Glass Fire is being called the worst in Napa's history, given that much of the physical damage to wineries appears to have occurred on the Napa side. At least 20 wineries, primarily around Napa's Spring Mountain appellation, saw structures damaged or destroyed, as the Mercury News reports, including Cain Vineyard and Winery, Castello di Amorosa, Spring Mountain Vineyards, and Chateau Boswell. Other wineries, like Sterling Vineyards — with its beloved gondola — and Hunnicutt Winery sustained only minimal damage.
As the New York Times reports, beyond the structure damage there's the economic and emotional toll the fire has taken on this year's harvest, which will inevitably extend — with smoke taint on grapes — to far beyond the fire perimeter. But within the fire zone itself, lots of wineries lost incredible amounts of both wine in barrels and bottles, in addition to suffering fire damage to the vines themselves.
"Every drop of wine was like a miracle this year, the viticulture was so hard,” said Jean-Baptiste Rivail, general manager of Newton Vineyard on Spring Mountain, speaking to the Times. “It’s almost like losing a living thing. And it’s violent, to go back on site to find ashes and gutters full of wine."
"From south St. Helena to north of Calistoga, the hillside is completely charred,” said Frank Dotzler of Outpost Wines, to the Times. "A drive through the valley now, it’s just unimaginable."
The Glass Fire is now 50-percent contained but continues burning north of St. Helena in Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.
Photo: Burned bottles of wine sit in a pile at Castello di Amorosa that was destroyed by the Glass Fire on October 01, 2020 in Calistoga, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)