Wineries back open for business after being evacuated due to Walbridge Fire

Bay Area

HEALDSBURG, Calif. (KRON) – In the North Bay, the LNU Lightning Complex fire is now 95% contained. People with homes still standing have largely returned and now businesses are getting back up on their feet.     

But there remains a lot of uncertainty, particularly for those in the winery business.

Outdoor tastings have started again at Passalacqua Winery. This winery, like many in Dry Creek Valley, was evacuated and closed for several weeks when the Walbridge Fire burned within a half mile of the property.

“We’re only in August and the first part of September so we will see what the rest of the year holds,” Jason Passalacqua said. 

The timing of the Walbridge Fire couldn’t have been worse. The harvest had not yet begun and grapes were still on the vine.  

Now, they’re having to test the grapes and reject those that have a high smoke content but they still think there will be plenty of quality grapes to harvest.

“There’s a lot of good fruit out there from different areas of the county and outside Sonoma County. I think will produce great wine, so I think 2020 could be a mixed vintage but anything with the Passalacqua  label on it will be at Sonoma quality standards,” Passalacqua said.  

Passalacqua Winery makes only 5,000 cases a year, and any unplanned event like COVID-19 or wildfires in August is difficult, as it is for all small businesses but even though fire season is just getting underway, the return of visitors is keeping them optimistic.

“We have a pretty full docket for the next couple of weeks which means people are getting out and tasting and not overly worried about the smoke and covid and staying home and hunkering down,”  Passalacqua said. 

This winery, like many, is also adapting with the times, for those that don’t want to come in person they are offering virtual tastings which they say have taken off since the beginning of COVID-19.

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