2020 Year in Review
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 that will hopefully produce a couple hundred cases for us each vintage.
The rolling blackouts, that much of rural California has had to endure as a fire prevention method the past few years, were particularly hard on Sheldon and the crew at harvest. In the spring of 2020, we had a large propane generator and three Tesla batteries installed to help when power outages occur. Before the Teslas were installed, we had a short power outage and the generator kicked in immediately. Worked like a charm! At least we won’t have to worry this harvest.
The tasting room is still a work in progress as COVID-19 has shut down Napa’s planning/building department. The virus also abruptly halted tourism. This has had a significant impact on the wine industry, but through all of this, we hope our community will come out stronger.
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 even started. The fires seem to let up in mid-September before Caston and Heidi arrived and we hoped to be able to salvage the crop.
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 the day it spread north up the valley and west 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. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Around 7 pm, Caston and Heidi happened to head up to the main house/tasting room from Sheldon’s home only to discover the fire had leapt all the way across the valley to the backside of Spring Mountain; it was only a couple hundred yards from the Paloma property line. 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 the 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, and 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 acting as volunteer firefighters helping protect our property and our neighbors’, sleeping in shifts at night, and processing what little grapes we had harvested–we found out later that this wine was smoke tainted and had to be disposed of. While we lost our entire 2020 crop, we consider ourselves incredibly lucky. So many lost so much more.