Though much of Hagafen Celllars was spared by the fire, the plants around the property were blackened by the Atlas Peak fire. (Photo/Courtesy Hagafen Cellars)
Though much of Hagafen Celllars was spared by the fire, the plants around the property were blackened by the Atlas Peak fire. (Photo/Courtesy Hagafen Cellars)

Fire-damaged Hagafen Cellars kosher winery reopens tasting room

The tasting room reopened this morning at Hagafen Cellars, the only kosher winery in the North Bay, although the property sustained heavy damage last week from the Atlas Peak fire.

“As of today, we are open,” owner and winemaker Ernie Weir told J. by phone on Oct. 16. “The tasting room was impacted, but not so much that we can’t open. We’re waiting now for our first tourist.”

Weir sent out an email on Oct. 10 saying that flames had ripped through the property on the southern portion of the Silverado Trail, destroying several buildings and virtually all of the winery’s agricultural equipment — tractors, a forklift and even the crushing pad. About an acre of the winery’s 12 acres of vineyards was burned, although thankfully, Weir reported, the grapes had been harvested.

Unfortunately, he added, now there’s no equipment available to process them.

Hagafen didn’t lose any of its inventory, which was safely stored inside the main winery building, Weir said, although the impact on the 2017 vintage “is yet to be determined.”

Weir, who founded the winery in 1979, and his wife, Irit, were safely evacuated from their Napa home on Oct. 8, the first night of the fires. No one was hurt at the winery, although almost all the hens in their chicken house were killed.

One hen survived, Weir reported, and “we’ve renamed her Phoenix.”

At this point, Weir said he is working hard to get the winery up and running again, but the future is still uncertain. Asked whether the damage will prevent Hagafen from continuing as a business, he paused before replying, “I don’t think so.”

But he counts himself lucky. “They’re all material objects, which can be replaced,” he said of the damages. “I’m very grateful. Other people suffered much worse.”

Vintners throughout Napa and Sonoma counties are bracing to find out the full impact the devastating wildfires will have on an industry that drives the local economy, both through global wine sales and the tourism it brings to the region.

Nearly all of the hundreds of wineries in the region were forced to close during the first days of the fires last week. Some burned to the ground, including Signorello Estate in Napa and Paradise Ridge in Santa Rosa. Other historic vineyards, with old vines dating back to the 19th century, may have been singed beyond repair.

Jeff Morgan, who with his wife Jodie owns the kosher Convenant Winery in Berkeley, lost grapes in Sonoma County and fears “considerable” financial losses.

When the smoke fully clears, industry leaders fear the area will suffer a severe shortage of grapes for years to come. New vineyards may have to be planted, and it takes three to five years before they bear fruit. Combined with the wine inventory lost in burned storage facilities, it could be decades before the industry recovers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Asked what the public can do to help, Weir didn’t hesitate.

“Come visit,” he urged. “Keep the Napa and Sonoma wine business going.”

Sue Fishkoff

Sue Fishkoff is the editor emerita of J. She can be reached at [email protected].