Wineries count cost of fires that disaster

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Call the grapes of wrath – California wildfires have struck the heart of wine country, destroying at least five wineries and to harm others.

The majority of this season’s grapes have already been harvested, which limits the damage from smoke.

But many business owners have not been able to control their properties, as the areas remain evacuated.

“We don’t know yet,” said John Aguirre, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers.

“It is not clear how many vineyards have been damaged and to what extent they can be rehabilitated.”

Fires are the deadliest in California since 2003 and among the worst in the history of the state. At least 21 people were killed and hundreds of people are missing.

Napa and Sonoma counties, where the terror on the territory hit harder, are home to about 10% of the wine grapes grown in California, according to the Wine Institute.

They are also about one-fifth of the state 4,700 wineries, which buy and process the grapes ,and welcome millions of tourists every year.

While California is accustomed to the risks arising from fires, the severity of these fires is “unprecedented” for the wine industry, Mr. Aguirre said.

At least five of the wineries have suffered total or very significant losses, and 11 have reported damage, according to Napa Valley Vintners.

The organization has heard reports from about a dozen wineries in particularly vulnerable areas.

About 90% of the grapes had already been harvested.

A decline in the tourism sector and damage to vineyards are likely to increase costs significantly, once the damage is fully understood, said Rob McMillan, founder of the wine division for Silicon Valley Bank.

For individual enterprises, the fires could be devastating and has destroyed lives to take about four years to grow back.

Mr McMillan said consumers, however, can be reassured: the fires are unlikely to lead to a wider increase in the price of California wine.

“There is a lot of wine. There is a lot of choices,” he said. “But that is going to be very painful for [the individual] of the owners of the vineyards and wineries.”Before and after