California Fires Take a Deep Toll on Wine Country

As the fire approached, the firefighters bulldozed through fields and woods, trying to divert the blaze by depriving it of its fuel.

“It was coming west to east, and then it went around the corner and tried to get us from the north,” Mr. Dotzler said. It got within 100 meters of Outpost, he said, before winds shifted and the fire receded.

“I attribute this to the firefighters doing a great job,” he said.

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Mr. Dotzler is also an owner, with the winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown, of Mending Wall Winery, on the Silverado Trail in St. Helena. When the Glass Fire started, Mending Wall was right in its path. It burned right up to the parking lot on the first night before diverting, Mr. Dotzler said.

Even before the latest round of fires, the pervasive smoke that hung over wine country in September had taken its toll. For the first time since 1978, Chateau Montelena, a historic producer near Calistoga, will not make an estate cabernet sauvignon because the grapes were tainted by ash and smoke.

At Kamen Estate, across the Mayacamas Mountains in neighboring Sonoma County, the proprietor, Robert Mark Kamen, has concluded he will most likely not make any red wines in 2020 because of smoke taint, which can make a wine taste disagreeably smoky, or worse, like ashes.

“To say I’m bummed is an understatement,” he said. He has already sold off some wine that might eventually have fetched $100 a bottle for $5 a gallon, to huge producers who will use it as a minuscule, undetectable part in the vast tanks of wine they will bottle and sell cheap.

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