On the first week October 2017, Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties were woken up by the ranging North Bay Fires with winds at high speeds. When the fires were over, the rest of the world was led to believe by the media that wine country was no longer there. But that is far from the truth! As a result, the brand new Astro Motel was force to open it's doors for it's first fire victims, including me.
The Astro Motel, located in Santa Rosa, California, was forced to open it’s doors on October 27, 2017. Following the outbreak of fires in Sonoma County, The Astro, not yet open to the public, welcomed fire refugees for a soft opening with basic necessities and toiletries. The Astro had been, for decades, a motel located in a run down neighborhood where drugs and prostitution was the primary source of traffic. The Astro, originally built in 1963, but born again in 2017, recently underwent through a $10 million renovation project by Spinster Sister’s chef/owner Liza Hinman, after being shut down for many years.
The motel was not rebuilt as a replica to the prior property, but more so as passageway into the American motor lodge era. The motel has been updated with a modern space age Palm Springs vibe with each bedroom having its own unique furnishings and vintages pieces from the 1950 and 1960's. The rooms are designed as a gallery, giving you the option to purchase any item in the room. The Astro has several art pieces in storage, ready for replacement if a guest chooses to purchase one at check out, so don't feel bad if you want to purchase your lamp. Click HERE to see pictures of the rooms.
The Spinster Sisters, who co own The Astro, open their award winning restaurant several blocks away. Their restaurant serves delicious dishes with as many local ingredients as possible, along with a great wine list. Click HERE to see the restaurant.
The Astro is part of a new wave of lodging of “retro-boutique motels”, offering luxury modern accommodations at affordable lodging prices. The Astro Motel is now officially open and it’s 34 room building, continues to host local FEMMA victims who have suffered losses and visiting tourists whose financial support is more valuable than ever. The Astro Motel continues to be a FEMA-approved site for eligible fire survivors.
With permission from the city, The Astro Motel was allowed to transform the parking lot into an urban garden oasis with dozen of fruit trees, including three mature olive trees. These olive trees were also planted in hopes that the Spinster Sisters, will eventually harvest olive oil for their restaurant down the street.
The truth about the North Bay Fires
Sonoma, Napa and Lake Counties need our help, where the tourism rate has dropped since the fires. Remember that Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake Counties have NOT been destroyed and the media has made it seem like wine country is no longer there. Although the loss during the fires has been substantial, the loss of business was the most devastating. During my last visit in November at the wine bloggers conference, several representatives from the affected areas in wine country, spoke to us about what the aftermath. As a result of the fires, 15% of Sonoma County, 10% of Napa, 8% in Lake Counties and approximately 2800 acres in Mendocino County were burned, with the majority of it being residential areas. The North Bay fires begun the first three weeks of harvest, which is the busiest time of the year. Thousands of tourist have cancelled their vacations during the busiest time of the year, leaving wine country almost a ghost town. Below is one of my recent visits right after the fires.
While at the wine bloggers conference, we took a short lunch break and visited Ridge Vineyards, as they were having a zinfandel and tamales even benefiting the North Bay fires. Ridge Vineyards located in Dry Creek Valley Sonoma, is a zinfandel house offering a Chardonnay and other reds. During the event, I had some of the best tamales I've ever had! Duck and chicken tamales with a mole sauce. The property offers award winning wines and never endings views of the valley. Ridge Winery is home to several vineyards throughout the state. Grapes are harvested from several vineyards in Sonoma county, as well as the Paso Robles AVA in San Luis Obispo county, with their award winning Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
In Napa, most of the 2017 vintage was picked, however, some of the Cabernet Sauvignon was left on the vines. Due to Cabernet Sauvignon being a thick skin grape, the hope is that it may be more resilient to the smoke. In addition, it was reported that the fires were not on the ground long enough to warm up the soil and affect the vines. Winemakers and winegrowers are constantly testing the soils, in order to continue producing and ensuring the highest quality wine is made.
Please know that a lot of the fire victims work in the wine industry and we can help by visiting wineries and restaurants in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake Counties. If you can’t visit, purchase northern California wine this holiday season and help Wine Country re build! Below are some of the most affected wineries, where purchasing wine will go a long way. Thank you for taking the time and reading this blog post. This information was gathered by me at a conference with Napa Valley, Sonoma and Mendocino County wine growers associations and tourism boards. Below are some of the wineries with extensive or partial damage. #SonomaStrong #napavalleyspirit #mendocinocounty
Paradise Ridge Winery, The winery was completely destroyed by the Tubbs Fire. You can purchase wine HERE for as low as $22 or you can visit their Healdsburg tasting room HERE. You can read more about their story and ways to help HERE.
Gundlach Bundschu Winery, Despite earlier reports of significant fire damage, the winery buildings are structurally sound, said Katie Bundschu. However, they did loose their family home and had some damage to the vineyards. You can buy wine HERE.
Ahh Winery, Glen Ellen: The winery building at Glen Ellen’s Ahh Winery was completely destroyed, along with its water system.
Ancient Oak Cellars, Ancient Oak Cellars’ home vineyard at Siebert Ranch, in the Russian River Valley, experienced significant loss because of fire. The bottled wines and wines in barrel, however, were safe at other locations and the vines were spared.
Chateau St. Jean, Despite early reports that the winery was destroyed, a drive-by Tuesday showed damage to some outbuilding and archway entries from the parking lot, but the main structure appeared unharmed.
White Rock Vineyards, Initial reports said the winery confirmed it was destroyed in the fire, and a San Francisco Chronicle photo did show the burned out wooden cave doors and many destroyed bottles of fine. But the family reports that while the property had some damage, the winery and wines were safe in an underground facility and cave system and the vines are still intact. You can purchase wine HERE starting at $15 and read more about their fire damage HERE.
Darioush Winery, The winery reported landscape and vineyard damage, but the winery building itself is still standing.
Hagafen Cellars, The winery building and tasting room survived the fire, but the crush pad partially burned, some agricultural equipment was destroyed, a guest house and chicken house were lost and about an acre of vineyards burned.
Helena View Johnston Vineyards, According to the owner’s brother, this organic winery burned to the ground
Jarivs Estate: The Napa winery from the Atlas Peak district sustained significant damage. Several structures, including the estate’s historic barn, known as Jarvis’ “pilot winery,” were destroyed.
Mayacamas Vineyards, The winery atop Mount Veeder survived the fire, but a private tasting and events building known as “the residence” was destroyed.
Paras Vineyard, The winery is believed to have had severe damage.
Patland Estate Vineyards, A view from Soda Canyon Road shows extensive damage to the estate and vineyards.
Pulido-Walker’s Estate Vineyard, Mt. Veeder, Napa: The Estate Vineyard of Mark Pulido and Donna Walker in Napa was destroyed. The owners confirmed that they lost their home and a portion of the estate vineyard during the Partrick Road Fire and that likely will impact their planned 2018 inaugural harvest from that vineyard.
Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Only some vegetation around the winery had burned.
Roy Estate, Caught in one of the worst fire zones, the winery was extensively damaged.
Segassia Vineyard, A company spokesperson confirmed that the winery owned by the Cates family has burned.
Signorello Estate Vineyards, The winery and residence in the Stag’s Leap District burned to the ground.
Sill Family Vineyards, Photos provided to the Napa Valley Register show the winery destroyed by fire, and owner Igor Sill told the paper by email, “We will rebuild as soon as we’re allowed to return.”
Silver Oak Cellars vineyard, sustained only minimal damage to their Soda Canyon Ranch Vineyard in the Napa Valley. No vines were lost. Harvest was complete before the wildfires began.
Sky Vineyards, The family-owned winery has sustained fire damage but is still standing.
Stags’ Leap Winery, The main winery and tasting room in the Stags’ Leap District are intact, but some outer buildings on the property were lost. Stag’s Leap Winery is often confused with neighboring Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.
VinRoc, The Atlas Peak district winery and home were destroyed. “Total loss, everything gone except our (wine) cave,” he said.
William Hill Estate Winery, Damage to the winery’s entrance sign led to reports that the winery was destroyed. William Hill sustained only minor cosmetic and landscaping damage, in addition to minimal vineyard damage.
Frey Vineyards, The country’s first organic and biodynamic winery lost its winery and bottling facility but a wine-storage warehouse is still standing. All wine orders have been suspended temporarily until the family can fully assess the loss. You can purchase wine as low as $12.50 HERE.
Backbone Vineyard & Winery, Redwood Valley: The small family winery that had replaced the former Cole Bailey winery was lost in the Redwood fire. The winery burned to the ground along with all the wine made over the past five years.
Oster Wine Cellars, Ken and Teresa Fetzer’s winery, which specializes in limited-production Cabernet Sauvignon, was destroyed in the Redwood Fire.
All facts were gathered by Erika Beach during the Wine Bloggers conference November 8-11 of 2017. The report was given by Sonoma Valley Tourism Board, Napa Valley Vintners, Mendocino Wine Growers, Owner of Signorello Estate and family members of Paradise Ridge Winery. Additional information was gathered from each winery website. Please note that information may have been updated, as of this writing.