California wildfires turn beloved Napa vineyards to ashes

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Calistoga (United States) (AFP)

The Silverado Trail has long been a Napa Valley wine enthusiast’s dream location, as it winds gently through vineyards and heads towards Calistoga.

California’s Glass Fire turned much of that dream to ashes, destroying a 3-star restaurant in the Meadowood complex, torching wineries such as Chateau Boswell, and smearing precious grapes with smoke.

The west coast of the United States is experiencing a record-breaking fire season, with five of the six largest fires in state history burning and nearly four million acres burned.

At least a dozen Napa wineries and vineyards were set ablaze when the blaze broke out this week, with the burnt area now spanning nearly 50,000 acres (20,200 hectares).

At the Trailside Inn Bed and Breakfast on Wednesday, the skeletal remains of a bus converted to a motorhome (RV) lay in a scorching area near a vintage Packard car with melted paint on the hood.

Smoke rose along the road and onto the hillsides, where fire teams could be seen attacking pockets of flames with picks, shovels and hoses.

Wineries that were not in ruins were closed, often unattended because people were ordered to evacuate the area and were not allowed to enter.

A guard watched over the entrance to Meadowood, where chef Christopher Kostow had turned the resort’s eponymous restaurant into a dining experience that earned him three Michelin stars.

While other parts of the station were spared, the restaurant was wiped out.

The flames also moved towards Kostow’s house in Calistoga, to burn around the house instead of passing through it.

“Losing your restaurant and your home would have been a double blow that no one could take,” said Calistoga Mayor Chris Canning, who checked the Kostow home for him due to the evacuation.

– Luxury trailer park –

Flames erupted from broken propane gas lines in the remains of upscale mobile homes at the luxurious Calistoga Ranch, which has pools, a lake and a hilltop mountain as well as hiking trails.

“It was unlike any trailer park you’ve ever seen,” said firefighter Matt Macdonald of nearby Sonoma as he gazed at the still scorching scenery.

Near a “valet” sign were heat-twisted remains of golf carts once used to commute around the property.

“Everything is very sad,” said a Napa County deputy sheriff who tended to a vineyard on the Silverado Trail.

“People who come here each have their own memories, usually about an area that they love because it has become special to them. ”

In the nearby town of Calistoga, known for its geothermal hot springs, mud baths, and vineyard tours, Castello di Amorosa’s cellar master braved thick smoke and fire to assess the damage.

The flames emptied a stone farmhouse used to store wine, but spared the fake medieval Italian castle made of materials imported from Europe.

The farm held around 120,000 bottles of wine, worth around $ 5 million, while the restoration of the building is expected to cost an additional $ 10 to 12 million, according to owner Dario Sattui.

– ‘2020 feared’ –

Flames surrounded the town of Calistoga, slowly creeping up the dry, brown hills. The vineyards, with their green vines and lack of undergrowth, acted as fire brakes in the absence of strong winds.

The main street was deserted, from the Calistoga Inn to Copperfield Books and the lodge in Indian Springs known for its huge pool of geothermal water rising to the surface from deep in the earth.

Calistoga has grown into a world-famous wine destination since its inception in 1886, and the town of about 5,200 residents typically receives over a million visitors a year, according to Mayor Canning.

The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the tourism and wine industry, and now forest fires have ravaged coveted destinations.

“2020 sucks, I want this year to end,” Canning said. “We will come back, but let’s eliminate all of this in 2020 so that in the years to come, we are done. “

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