Fires

Soda Rock Winery burns as raging Kincade Fire scorches other Sonoma County wineries

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Several Sonoma County wineries, including one with historic buildings dating back to 1869, have been burned by the swift-moving Kincade Fire, which has gobbled up more than 75,000 acres, fire officials say.

The Alexander Valley of Sonoma County contains 15,000 acres of vineyards with 31 wineries and 82 growers, The Press Democrat reported. Most vintners completed their grape harvest last week.

The Soda Rock Winery burned to the ground early Sunday, videos show. The Highway 128 winery dates back to a general store and post office founded in 1869, according to its website.

Videos show flames engulfing the winery about 4 a.m. Pacific time Sunday.

A distinctive 20-foot-tall steel sculpture of a boar at the winery apparently survived the blaze, The Press Democrat reported.

Owners, patrons ‘devastated’

In a post to Instagram, winery owners say they are “devastated” by the news and will pass along any information as soon as possible. All winery employees are safe, the post says.

“Glad you are all safe,” read one response to the Instagram post.

“So sad,” read another. “Had my wedding reception there and have been to many events and occasions they held a lot of memories.”

“Being from Malibu we understand what you are going through,” another post reads. “Last year this month it was us.”

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In a later post to InstaStories, the winery says most of its 2019 vintage remains intact since winemaking operations are off-site.

Other wineries damaged

Firefighters battled a cellar fire Sunday at the Jackson Family Winery, also on Highway 128, Bay Area News Group reported in The Mercury News.

Posts on Twitter also reported damage to the Field Stone Winery and Moville Vineyards in the Alexander Valley, according to the publication.

Vintners at other Sonoma County wineries were keeping a wary eye on the fire’s advance.

Two wineries in the region owned by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola are not in danger from the fire but closed for several days as a result of smoke, Bloomberg.com reported. The wineries also canceled a Halloween festival Sunday.

“The winery has harvested the majority of our vineyards,” said Corey Beck, Coppola’s chief executive, according to the publication. “The grapes are in production at the winery where we currently have available back-up power if needed.”

Popular wedding venue scorched

The site of a previous winery in the 1980s, Soda Rock Winery was restored and re-established in 2000 by current owners Ken and Diane Wilson, the winery’s site says.

The winery includes a tasting room and space for weddings or other events.

The winery’s destruction has left a couple from Auberry, northeast of Fresno in California, scrambling for a new wedding venue, KSEE reported.

““It was our dream venue to get married at so it is very sad,” said Kristin Dingler, who had planned to marry Robert Walker at the winery in May 2020, according to the station. “It was just perfect. We know from the get-go. It was just us to a tee.”

But Dingler, who had to evacuate with Walker while on a visit to the winery to plan their wedding, says she doesn’t want to “throw a pity party,” recognizing that people in the fire zone “are going through so much,” KSEE reported.

The Kincade Fire, which has burned 75,000 acres as of Tuesday morning, is 15 percent contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reports.

Nearly 180,000 Sonoma County residents are under mandatory evacuation orders as a result of the wind-driven blaze, which erupted Wednesday near Geyserville.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.
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