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Sippy Tales
  • Writer's pictureDylan & Tobe Sheldon

Fire on the Mountain

Updated: Dec 4, 2018

Fountain Grove Ridge east of Santa Rosa in the wee hours of October 9th, 2017 | Photo credit George Rose

Perfect conditions for a firestorm hit wine country

A parched countryside, low humidity, and a hot wind blowing 40mph to 60mph converged to create what firefighters are calling a perfect 100 + year storm. None have seen anything like it. The fire began while people slept, and moved at high speed over the mountain. The winds whipped, changing direction quickly, making it impossible to predict what path the storm would take. Emergency personnel had no choice but to focus on getting people and animals to safety until reinforcements could arrive.

Photo credit Kent Porter, who risked his life and health to bring us the news.

A long night

I had a foreboding feeling when a friend posted of high warm winds blowing Sunday afternoon. Later that night our intern Sophi sent Dylan a message of passing a rampant fire on her way to do the night time punch-downs. She said the whole place felt 'creepy.'

As the night unfolded numerous friends fled for their lives, leaving everything behind. The first news came from, Luc and Joanne, proprietors of Luc's Vineyard where we source the Brut Rosé, Syrah, Graciano, and SpringLoaded MonkeyPaw. They, along with their neighbors and our friend Bruce and his family that have a Cabernet Vineyard we just harvested, were evacuated from their home in Fountain Grove to the Hilton hotel. A few hours after making it to the safety of the Hilton, they were evacuated as it burned to the ground.

When the fire jumped Highway 101 and showed no hint of slowing down, we knew this was going from bad to worse. We started contacting friends at 2:00 am. Waking some and desperately worried about others who didn't answer. We watched helplessly as the fire devoured neighborhoods, homes, and businesses.

The list of loved ones that have lost everything is long.

A block from the winery

The Winery and the Wine

The winery is located in the Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa. Less than a block north of us has been turned to ash. We are extremely grateful that the winery remains standing and heartbroken for the devastation that is steps away. As of this writing, we were still out of power. Dylan and his team at Inspiration Vineyards continue to work with headlamps and gas masks on. They are required to get an escort in because the area is still considered unsafe and closed to the public. A curfew is in place, and if they try to stay later, they will be arrested.

All of our grapes were harvested before the fire. Regular winery operations of topping barrels, punching down fermenting grapes and pressing off wine is being done the old-fashioned way. The finished wine in barrel is smelling good and getting a whiff of it raises the spirits. Despite everything, it is going to be a delicious vintage. And for our friends that lost their homes, I hope it will offer some comfort in the years to come.

Tuesday, October 10th First check on the wine since the fire started.

The Vineyards

Who knew that vineyards were fire retardant? This fire burns so incredibly hot that there are pools of aluminum in gutters from engine blocks, it turns structures to ash with nothing left standing, and the vines remain green turning the fire away. Bacchus at work.

Luc's Vineyard weathered the storm. Their home did not. Heartbreaking and awe-inspiring.

A community of strength

"The love in the air is thicker than the smoke."

Need I say more. 

Friday the 13th. The winemaking goes on.

-Tobe Sheldon

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