Posted: Oct 14, 2019
Hess Vineyard on Napa’s picturesque Mount Veeder bounced back when the 2014 earthquake imploded one if its 10,000-gallon fermentation tanks full of wine. It survived when firefighters beat back the destructive wildfires that licked the edges of its vineyard three years later.
So when the battle-tested winery lost power Wednesday due to the PG&E outages around the Bay Area, workers there were prepared. Still, without electricity, they were forced to shutter the winery at the height of the tourist season.
“Are there going to be locusts next?” Philip Hansell, a director at Hess, said Thursday as he drove an ATV through the vineyard, checking on the status of the soon-to-be picked Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. “We’ve been looking through the books of worship to see what comes next — apparently it’s wind.”
The winery is like so many other businesses in California’s famous Wine Country to be hit hard by the shut-offs. Hansell said they canceled ATV rides with customers and wine and cheese pairings and suffered the loss of the usual foot traffic that brings hundreds of visitors a day into the property’s opulent tasting rooms and modern art museum.
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Workers spent the day clearing tree branches that fell when intense wind gusts finally struck overnight and scattered debris around the property. The company is planning an audit to calculate the losses, which Hansell estimates will be in the tens of thousands of dollars.
The same goes for the businesses in nearby by St. Helena. Nearly every shop along Highway 29 through the quaint downtown was closed Wednesday and Thursday. No one in the town had power.
But At Lolo’s Consignment, Rebecca Schick set up lanterns, flashlights and headlamps around the racks of vintage clothes and jewelry. She was taking credit cards with an old-fashioned machine that didn’t require power.
“Any opportunity we have to be there for the community, we’re happy to do it,” she said. “A lot of people planned their whole year around coming here, so it’s nice to be open for them.”
Former college friends Margaret Bellefuil, Jean Albrecht, and Jodi Campbell reunited for a two-day trip to St. Helena that unluckily coincided with the shut-off.
The El Bonita hotel where they were staying had no power, but they were staying positive as they walked to the shops and wineries that were still open to taste wines and remember their times together at Kenyon College in Ohio.
“Some wineries we missed out on, but we love the positive attitude of all the people here,” said Bellefuil, who was visiting from Seattle. “Everybody’s been pulling together.”
By Evan Sernoffsky
October 10, 2019
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