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Wildfires Hit Napa, Sonoma Before Grape Harvest Complete

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

A small flame is all that remains from the flames that burned to the edge of the Robert Sinskey Vineyard, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Napa, Calif.

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

While Sonoma and Napa Counties have been hit hard by unforgiving wildfires that continue to ravage Northern California, it's too early to gauge the economic toll on the region's famed wine industry.

With fires still burning and many communication lines down, Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar said they haven't made any formal assessment of damage to the agricultural sector.

Linegar's heard anecdotal reports and seen photos of several burnt out wineries. He's had reports of power outages and actual vineyards burning, too. He says that's unusual.

"[Normally] a vineyard would actually serve as a pretty good fire break," Linegar said. "Because you have the green vegetation, you have the ground tilled up similar to what a fire break would do. But in this circumstance the winds were so high intensity and the heat and intensity of the fire actually caused vineyards to burn."

Even in areas clear of the wildfires Linegar said smoky air is keeping field workers out of vineyards ready for harvest — like Cabernet Sauvignon grapes which ripen later than other varietals.

Steve Dutton has vineyards in Sebastopol, just west of the Tubbs Fire that devastated the city of Santa Rosa. His Chardonnay grapes are ready for harvest.

"I have some grapes left to pick," Dutton said. "Other guys have grapes left to pick. We are holding on that right now because the winery we have to go is in Napa to deliver them. They're supposedly out of power and I don't really know how to get there with the road closures and the fires still actively going on."

Napa and Sonoma are California's two leading counties in terms of average value of their wine grapes.

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