NAPA COUNTY (CBS13) — Napa County has been hit hard by wildfires but experts say the damage could have been worse. Wine country’s most precious crop may have prevented the fire from spreading.
The damage from Glass Fire is significant but what’s gone largely untouched is what the area is most well-known for, the vineyards themselves.
“The vineyards act as a fire break because they’re widely spaced and there’s just not much fuel for fires,” Dario Sattui, owner of Castello Di Amorosa Winery, said.
Sattui said a 50,000sq ft building, their bottling line, and plenty of wine was destroyed, but the vineyard’s grapevines were practically untouched.
“Wherever there’s vineyards you’ll very seldom see fires,” Sattui said.
“If you own a home in fire-prone areas you want a vineyard as your neighbor,” John Aguirre, president of the California Association of Wine Grape Growers, said. “Vineyards aren’t unlike a well-watered lawn or a fresh Christmas tree. Both are very hard to light and make ignite.”
Aguirre said that because vineyard floors are kept well-hydrated and relatively clear of brush, there’s not much to burn.
“It’s really difficult for embers that fly through the air to find fuel to ignite and continue the fire. The vineyards have proven to be remarkably resilient,” Aguirre said.
Despite wildfires not reaching the grapes, the crop still may not be useable.
“No winery is going to make wine from wine grapes that have been damaged by smoke exposure,” Aguirre said.
This means the Glass Fire could still have a major effect on the industry.
“Napa is our most important or I should say the most valuable with respect to the amount of revenue in this state generated by wine grapes. Unfortunately, we think the losses for growers will be significant,” Aguirre said.
The Glass Fire has burned more than 46,000 acres across Napa Valley and is 2% contained, which means firefighters still have a lot of work to do to get this burn under control.