Home Wildfires Fire Watch: Caldor Fire Burns Big Doubling in Size

Fire Watch: Caldor Fire Burns Big Doubling in Size

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In the week following our last report, Caldor has destroyed nearly 200,000 acres

Barbara Barrielle

The Caldor Fire is only 16% contained as it continues its trajectory toward vacation paradise, Lake Tahoe. Fortunately, it has only skirted vineyards and wineries in Amador and El Dorado Counties. 

“Overnight fire activity remained active throughout the northeastern and eastern areas of the fire due to poor humidity recovery. Crown fire runs and ember casting remained active, covering distances of up to three quarters of a mile,” reports CalFire on the morning of August 31, 2021. “The current red flag warning remains in effect through 11:00 p.m. on 9/1/21.”

The Caldor Fire has been burning for over two weeks.

Caldor Fire Projection Map / CalFire
Caldor Fire Projection Map / CalFire

The reaction from the El Dorado Winery Association when reached Sunday, August 29, was grim. “We had thought we were potentially out of a direct hit on Friday, but things have taken a turn. … [We’re] praying for containment,” says Kara Sather, the Association’s executive director. 

Miraflores Winery, a 5000 case winery in Placerville, fought the flames threatening their estate last Saturday.

It was a pretty harrowing day, according to Miraflores general manager Ashlee Cuneo: “The fire got extremely close to the winery. CalFire was there protecting the vineyards. They had earlier bulldozed a perimeter around the property, which helped immensely.” She continues, “We lost two small outbuildings and a tiny amount of Zinfandel and Syrah. The two residences and the winery production building were not touched.”

Miralfores hasn’t begun harvesting but custom crush has started for several local clients. ”Luckily the winery was able to get passes for production and vineyard staff to get back in and check on fermentations and get Brix readings,” comments Cuneo. 

Miraflores is the furthest winery up Forest Springs Road; Cuneo doesn’t believe any neighboring wineries have been affected. “Winds change on a daily basis so we are still not 100% confident we are out of danger,” says Cuneo.

In nearby Amador County, Jack Gorman, executive director of Amador Vintners Association, reports, “We are experiencing a similar situation to what we had last year. Last year’s wines showed no effects from smoke taint and, right now, we expect the same this year. It is the ‘fresh’ smoke close to the fire that will produce smoke taint uptake. Once the smoke and/or ash are burned through, the possibility for smoke taint is nil or greatly reduced.”  

Luckily for Amador County, the fires all started north and east of the wine community. Gorman notes that the prevailing winds are blowing all fresh smoke away from from the vineyards, further reducing threat of smoke taint. “The only smoke Amador has been experiencing is the atmospheric smoke that drifts in the morning down mountain light breezes,” he says, adding, ”We remain cautiously optimistic about this year’s crop.” 

Many people in the wine industry have been following the Instagram account of La Clarine Farm in Amador County. Owner Hank Beckmyer has been chronicling his experience on the front lines and told Wine Industry Advisor, “We were evacuated the first night (August 17th). We were able to get most of our important personal belongings, our pets, and our goats out that first night and morning. Right now we are camping in a friend’s vineyard in Amador county. It’s not too bad—we have power and water—but, of course, with harvest looming it adds another layer of stress”

"Well, we’ve been told to evacuate. I guess I can see why," says Beckmeyer / Courtesy La Clarine Farm Instagram
“Well, we’ve been told to evacuate. I guess I can see why,” says Beckmeyer / Courtesy La Clarine Farm Instagram

Beckmyer’s home and winery, both located on the same property, are fine. He was able to get a two-hour pass from the County Ag Department to go back to his estate and recover some winery equipment. “As our insurance was cancelled just a few months ago, with no viable option available to us now, our facility is uninsured,” says Beckmyer. “At least this way, most of the most expensive equipment is out and safe, in case we need to rebuild.”

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Barbara Barrielle
Barbara Barrielle
Barbara Barrielle was a longtime publicist in sports and wine before going to the other side as a wine, travel and entertainment writer. She also produces films and has a documentary “Crushed: Climate Change and the Wine Country Fires” releasing in 2021. Current publications Barbara writes for are AARP Magazine, Northwest Travel & Life, East Hampton Star, Napa Valley Register, Oregon Wine Press as well as Wine Industry Advisor. She lives in Healdsburg, travels extensively and studies wine and languages.
 
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