Paradise Ridge Winery faces rebuild challenges after Santa Rosa fire
If plans work out, visitors could start returning to Paradise Ridge Winery’s vineyard and sculpture garden in north Santa Rosa in coming months, but it likely will take longer than that for the return of the tasting room and hospitality center after the October wildfires. And rebuilding of the winery is still up in the air.
“The goal to have some activity back on the property sometime this summer,” said co-owner Sonia Byck-Barwick. “It may be by appointment only, where they can sit down in the vineyards on picnic tables.”
To help make that happen in the near term, charred debris and fire-killed trees are set to be removed, and talks are continuing with a couple of groups interested in hosting large fire-related fundraisers there, she said. One is the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County, which is considering having an event for 150–200 connected to the annual Human Race.
But delaying the rebuild has been money. As with many other North Bay property owners, the proprietors of Paradise Ridge came to realize that the umbrella insurance policy didn’t cover as much as they thought, Byck-Barwick said.
“We’re pretty underinsured, as many people were,” she said.
Had there been a fire in one of the buildings, barns and homes on the 155-acre property, per-occurrence coverage under such a policy may have been sufficient. But the Tubbs fire took out eight structures on the property — all but a 700-square-foot building and the patio pizza oven — as it swept through the Fountaingrove neighborhood and into Coffey Park in the early hours of Oct. 9. Gone was the winery full of newly harvested grapes, aging wine in the cellar building, as well as the visitor venue named Best Tasting Room in California by USA Today in 2016.
About two months after the fire, the owners of Paradise Ridge learned from an adjuster that the policy didn’t have separate money for debris removal from the amount for rebuilding. The original bid was $750,000 just for private cleanup. Though a deadline already had passed for participating in the reimbursement program for cleanup on the three homes under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the county Board of Supervisors helped the owners get back in.
Debris removal is set to start Feb. 26, and that’s when the winery proprietors will start to learn how much they can rebuild, Byck-Barwick said. During cleanup, they’ll find out whether engineer tests will clear the buildings’ foundations as being safe for reuse, dramatically lowering the rebuild cost. An architect and builder are set to be selected in the next few weeks.
“Right now, the focus is on just rebuilding the tasting room and hospitality center,” she said. Paradise Ridge’s Kenwood tasting room escaped the Sonoma Valley blazes untouched. “We’re not sure what will happen with the winemaking building.”
The urgency of rebuilding the winery is lessened because winemaker Dan Barwick has been finding it a simpler process to make the brand at Flanagan Winery near Healdsburg, she said. That facility is permitted to produce 25,000 cases a year.
Founded a quarter century ago, Paradise Ridge was one of the most publicized among the 10 wineries in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties destroyed mostly in the first hours of the October blazes. The Business Journal previously has detailed progress with rebuilding at Signorello Estate in Napa Valley and Frey Vineyards in Mendocino’s Redwood Valley.