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Paloma Milestones: 2020

In the fall of 2019, we removed another 450 aging Merlot vines and replaced them in the spring of 2020 with Cabernet Franc. We now have a total of approximately 1000 Cabernet Franc Vines.

While working in the Vineyard in June, Sheldon rolled the ATV suffering a dislocated collarbone, multiple fractured ribs and a concussion. We are all incredibly grateful that the injuries are strictly superficial! Jace and Cait came down for a month in July and August to take some of the load off Sheldon, and Caston and Heidi came down for a month in the fall to help with Harvest.

Once again, harvest came with a heavy fire season. With fires burning throughout Northern California, Oregon and Washington, including the August Complex Fires, considered to be the first “giga” fire in history, smoke taint was a concern for most of the valley before harvest season. The fires seem to let up in mid September before Caston and Heidi arrived.

However, within a week of their arrival, the devastating Glass Fire Incident had begun. The whole family woke up to it at 4 am, on Sunday, September 27th, 2021. They watched it start on the west slopes of the Valley, just north of Saint Helena and throughout out the day, spread north up the valley and up the face of Howell Mountain. With heavy west winds pushing against the fire trying to climb up the west face of Howell Mountain, it seemed like they might get control of the fire quickly. That was not the case.

Around 7 pm, Caston and Heidi happened to head up to the main house from Sheldon’s, only to discover the fire had leapt all the way across the valley to the back side of Spring Mountain and was only a couple hundred yards from Paloma. Thanks to the heavy west winds pushing against the blaze, the fire crept up to the property very slowly. We were able to coordinate with the fire department and get 3 trucks up to top of our property to battle the blaze. We left shortly after, assuming the worst.

We spent Sunday night in a motel in Santa Rosa with our 3 vineyard dogs–Palo, Loma, & Mita–before heading to the bay area to stay with some friends. By late Monday, we got fantastic news; Paloma still stood. We were back on the property by Tuesday morning, before the authorities had a chance to close the roads.

We spent the next three weeks as volunteer fire fighters helping protect our property and our neighbours’, sleeping in shifts at night and processing what little grapes we had harvested – we found out later that this wine was smoke tainted and disposed of it.

While we lost our entire 2020 crop, we consider ourselves incredibly lucky. So many lost so much more.


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