When Your Heart’s on Fire, You Must Realize, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

When the fire was raging around our property on July 25 this iconic song from my youth came back to me as a reminder of how pain and joy can coexist together in so many different ways.

I refused to believe that the fire that started on Sand Hill Road and HW 49, 5 miles west of the winery on Friday July 25, a day before my birthday, was going to affect us. Friday morning we left the winery for a weekend of celebrations for my birthday. We were hardly a day in the Bay Area when I started receiving text messages from my neighbor Mike that has a house straight west from our house. At some point he texted me that with the help of “two giant bulldozers, 20 fire trucks and hundreds of firemen the fire was contained around his house and now moving towards ours.” His next text message came as we were on our way to have dinner at the One Market Restaurant in San Francisco. It said, “I can’t see your house, it is engulfed with flames that are 200 feet high.” Needless to say, my birthday dinner was less than joyous. By the time the dessert arrived his text message read, “We can still see the roof of your house behind the thick smoke.”

We could not wait until the next day. We cancelled all the events that we had planned and went back to the winery to see the damage with our own eyes. While both accesses to the winery from D’Agostini and Upton Road were blocked by police we were able to persuade them to allow us in. When we arrived the fire had been contained about 30%. We still observed about 100 helicopter sorties dumping water and chemicals on the surrounding areas of the house and the winery. By this time there were about 190 fire trucks and in excess of 1000 fire fighters fighting this fire.

Bottom line: Except for about 20 acres of forest that burned down on the west side of the house, the house and winery were spared. We had smoke damage inside the house with minor smoke damage in the winery. Most importantly, the vineyards were not touched by the fire. Actually, the fire didn’t even come close to any of the vineyards that can be seen from our winery which includes the Helwig and Rombauer Vineyards in addition to ours.

Our gratitude goes to the firefighters who saved our property from total destruction. They fought the fire for over 60 hours with extra-ordinary dedication and bravery. We thank our neighbors who have been so supportive during these difficult times. We also thank all of you, friends and customers who contacted us by phone, text and e-mails. Your good wishes were comforting to us and made us feel loved.

We have also been very fortunate that our insurance company has been very pro-active in the fire restoration activities. When you come to the Open House on September 6 and 7 I hope that will not notice any evidence of fire within the winery compound. You will notice however pockets of the burned forest on the south side of the winery which is there to stay for a few years.

Now we can go back to business as usual, beginning with the crush that I anticipate will start two weeks earlier than usual. After having had some painful moments it is a joy to walk the vineyards to see and taste the wonderful fruit hanging on the vines that will make the 2014 vintage the best in our history.