Winery postfire rebuilding progresses at Signorello Estate in Napa, Paradise Ridge in Santa Rosa
Survivability, having enough insurance coverage, preservation of vital records, the location of stored cases and other aspects of day-to-day operations — these are things you think about if you are rebuilding after the devastating 2017 wildfires.
Owners of Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa and Signorello Estate Winery in Napa recently broke ground on their wineries as well as their new beginnings.
For siblings Sonia Byck-Barwick and Rene Byck, co-owners of Paradise Ridge Winery off Fountaingrove Parkway (prwinery.com), a major consideration was whether or not to rebuild. Their father and founder Walter Byck decided to move forward despite insurance challenges and the extent of fire damage.
“It could have been worse,” said Byck-Barwick. “All of our renters made it safely off the property and most of our vines and art survived. Our facility manager called to say the road was blocked. The next day an employee’s husband went up the hill to see if anything was still there. We lost our hospitality building that served as an event center and tasting room, as well as three homes and four other structures on the property. Our Sonoma Valley Tasting Room and Sensory Garden in Kenwood were untouched, but the fire did come within 100 meters.”
The cost of rebuilding the 8,600-square-foot, two-story hospitality center is estimated to be $5.3 million. With everything else that must be replaced, the total cost could be between $13 million and $15 million.
This 155-acre Russian River Valley Estate was purchased by Walter Byck and Marijke Byck-Hoenselaars 40 years ago. In 1991 the first wine was produced and three years later the hospitality center opened. In 2019 the center would have celebrated its 25th anniversary.
“The entire 2017 vintage and the Rockpile Reds from 2016 were lost that would have enabled us to produce 6,500 cases," Rene Byck said. "With fruit left on the vines, our harvest was limited to 10 tons, enough for 400 cases. We had to buy bulk juice, bought back our pinot grapes from the Fritz Winery and purchased cabernet sauvignon. We also made a rosé from grenache grapes so we could have wine to sell.
“The biggest save for us was our estate vineyards, most of our trees and the five-acre Marijke’s Grove sculpture garden that includes the two-story-high 'Love' artwork that survived the fire and became a symbol of hope and strength. While we did have some vine damage, this year’s harvest was bigger than expected.”
He said ongoing tours and tasting events were launched in June, but wine club membership numbers declined in summer, due in part to people not being able to enjoy wine on the terrace patio overlooking the valley.
'BE SMART ABOUT WHERE YOU STORE YOUR WINES'
What will be done differently in the future? Being adequately insured tops the list. Separate insurance to cover wine losses is also important, along with business interruption insurance to keep a winery going for a year or two during recovery.
New building codes have been put in place since last October. Understanding rules and regulations associated with acquiring building permits is vital, since differences exist in regulations for rebuilding versus building new structures.
A fire hydrant is located on the property by the events building. The plan calls for buying enough hose to reach rebuilt structures. Developing an evacuation plan is also a must, along with a communications backup system, since cell phone coverage was spotty during the emergency. Having more than one way to enter and leave a property is advised should a single access road be blocked.