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B.C vintner vows to rebuild after wildfire hits his California winery

October 12, 2017 3:40 AM
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B.C vintner vows to rebuild after wildfire hits his California winery

'Within an hour my building was gone,' says winery owner Ray Signorello

A West Vancouver man has lost part of his winery to the fast-moving wildfires in California.

Ray Signorello, owner of Signorello Estate, says he's fortunate to have not lost it all.

Signorello says she frantically called him Sunday night around 10:45 p.m. PT, saying the fire was making its way over a nearby ridge and they needed to leave.

"We were basically one of the first buildings to get hit, and within an hour my building was gone."

While his Napa Valley production facility and his residence have been reduced to rubble, he says his 40-acre vineyard, barrel cellar and tank storage that currently holds his 2017 vintage, all appear to be fine.

According to Signorello, his retail business in California will be out of commission for a year or two, but they will rebuild.

Signorello says he is grateful for the outpouring of support he's received from other wineries who have not been touched by the rapid moving fires.

As the flames approach his winery property, another B.C. owner is keeping a close watch on the fast-moving California wildfires that have left at least 21 dead and destroyed more than 3,000 structures.

Tony Stewart, the CEO of Quails' Gate Winery in West Kelowna and the owner of the Lake Sonoma Winery in the Sonoma Valley, said his winery is so far untouched and his staff is safe.

Lake Sonoma Winery was evacuated on Sunday because of the advancing wildfires. (Lake Sonoma Winery/Facebook)

A burst of wind could be enough to blow the flames down into the valley where his property is though, he told CBC Early Edition host Rick Cluff.

"If you can think of it like many of the valleys here [in B.C.], the fire is kind of creeping down the sides, and it's just a matter of, if the winds come up and pull it down onto the valley floor, where you run into risks," Stewart said.

"They literally had minutes to get out. They went to bed and everything was fine and then they woke up in the middle of the night with fires around them," Stewart said.

His first concern, Stewart said, is saving people's lives but he is aware of the toll the fires will take on his business right in the middle of harvest season.

"There is no fruit moving at this moment. There are tanks full of wine that [is] fermenting," Stewart said.

"It's catastrophic in terms of that for the wine industry. But certainly, everything has been focused on saving property and lives at this point."

Stewart is no stranger to forest fires in wine country, both in California and B.C., and said he has been in some fairly tenuous situations in the past.

"I think we're going to have to start thinking a little differently and working to listen to experts on what we can do to help mitigate this," he said.

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