It is fire season, indeed!
Most likely, you’ve heard about the wildfires in California, and maybe you’ve wondered, “is there a blaze near Six Sigma Ranch?”
For the first time since we bought the ranch 15 years ago, the answer was a resounding yes. Two fires, the “Rocky Incident” in late July and the “Jerusalem Incident” in early August were so close that we were evacuated and had to close up shop in the tasting room for a few days. Thank God, our vineyards and buildings were still intact by the time we came back. Across Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties, those fires burned 95,000 acres of land. The fires crept across our property and blackened several hundred acres of pasture land. But we still feel blessed because that was all we lost – grassland that can grow back when rainfall returns.
CalFire brought their A-game with an army of firefighters and heavy equipment, as an armada of aircrafts battled the blazes from above. They kept us safe with tons of water and fire retardant, as well as firebreaks implemented to stop the flames from spreading to the rest of our land.
The previous weeks have been quite the roller coaster ride, and the press captured many of our ups and downs.
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On August 4, Wall Street Journal’s Tamara Audi quoted Kaj as he told how the firefighters stopped the first fire, Rocky Fire, in the north east corner of our ranch by bulldozing firebreaks and dropping water from firefighting planes. The story also mentioned how our team member Walt Campbell helped his son Caleb evacuate his property a few days earlier, hauling off Caleb’s livestock from his home that sits on the ridge overlooking Six Sigma Ranch.
On August 5, Dave Faries, editor of Lake County Record-Bee, said in his article, “Wineries escape damage – so far”, summarizing how the fire left our region and headed north. Our team member Jacquelyn said, “I feel completely safe coming to work. The firefighters worked so diligently. They really protected us. They are amazing.” At that point, about two dozen homes had been destroyed in the county and two wineries, Noggle and Cache Creek, were threatened, so the optimism was guarded. “We still have everyone in our thoughts and prayers,” Jacquelyn said.
The fire news spread all the way to the UK, where Lucy Britner of www.just-drinks.com on August 7 quoted Lake County Winegrape Commission saying, “Winery operations at Six Sigma Ranch in Lower Lake resumed early this week after being evacuated last Thursday”, in her article “California fires ‘minimal’ impact on wine grapes”
Two days later, however, a new fire named Jerusalem Fire started creeping onto the ranch from the southeast, and we had to spend another night at a local hotel. Again, we were very fortunate. “I know the firefighters are doing everything they can to keep the flames away from the vines,” Jacquelyn said in Dave Faries’ Record Bee article “Jerusalem Fire doubles in size overnight”, on August 11.
On August 12, Christian spoke to Los Angeles Times, expressing what we were all feeling: “It has been a rough two weeks. We have been on our toes every day.” Commenting on the start of the second fire, Christian said, “It seemed almost surreal. We are the Grand Central Station for fire season this year.”
Matt, our winemaker, expressed his relief that the fires spared the vineyards, in Alder Yarrow’s article “California 2015 – vintage of fire” at www.jancisrobinson.com , August 17. He also commented on the risk that the grapes could have absorbed a smoke taint, “I just have a feeling that the area wasn’t smoky enough for a long enough time for [smoke taint] to take hold in the fruit.”
In Dave Faries’ article in Record Bee August 19, “Grape harvest underway, well ahead of normal,” Matt summarized his thoughts, “We weren’t that nervous about the smoke. Our concern was the vineyard getting burned. The smoke was blowing in the opposite direction.”
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We thank everybody who helped put the fires out, offered us room and board, or offered help with our livestock and pets. We’re proud members of a truly amazing community! With the harvest well underway, we pray that this is the end of our 2015 fire story.