California vineyards and wineries rebuild after devastating wildfires

World Today

Northern California wildfires destroyed nearly 9,000 buildings and homes. Sonoma County was one of the places hardest hit. It’s also home to some of the most-prestigious wineries in the U.S.

CGTN’s Mark Niu reports on how the region is rebuilding.

Karissa Kruse evacuated her home with only minutes to spare and a half hour later it to almost nothing. But Kruse feels fortunate that she and her parents survived, as did her small vineyard. Kruse is the president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers.

“This has really been portrayed as a wine country fire, but what’s really the truth of it, it’s really an urban fire, the biggest impact it had really on the wine industry and our vineyards is that we had a lot employees who lost their homes,” she said.

The fires mostly stopped when they reached the vineyards, which acted like a natural fire break. But a handful of wine production facilities did get hit hard. Amid the rubble at Paradise Ridge Winery, the scent of fermented grapes still fills the air. Owner Rene Byck said they suffered at least $15 million in damages, including losing half of their wine. This included some $96,000 in wine bottles.

 “I had many great memories here with my kids, stomping grapes, and we’ve been making wine in this location since 2000. We suffered a lot of losses to our business and damage, but you know, probably drive around some areas they are completely devastated,” Byck explained.

Fortunately, Paradise Ridge’s actual vineyards suffered very little damage, so they expect a normal harvest next year, much like the entire county.

Paradise Ridge Winery’s tasting room and event center were also destroyed, but one silver lining is that all 30 of its art installations were undamaged. Its most famous sculpture, “LOVE” has even become a symbol for how after the fire, the spirit of wine country remains unbroken.