California wineries shut as fire tears through state’s north

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NEW YORK (Bloomberg) — Major California wineries including one owned by Francis Ford Coppola remain closed and without power amid efforts to staunch fires raging through the state’s wine-producing region.

Only 10 percent contained, the Kincade fire has swept through about 12,000 hectares — an area more than twice the size of Manhattan — destroying about 80 homes and buildings so far. Among the properties affected was the home of Julia Jackson, who evacuated the building with her mother Barbara Banke, chairman of Jackson Family Wines, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The family owns the maker of Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay.

The wildfire that erupted minutes after a PG&E Corp. power line went down has triggered a historic evacuation with state and county emergency responders calling on 180,000 people to flee their homes by Sunday morning.

PG&E Corp. cut power to more than 2.5 million Californians in the state’s largest deliberate blackout ever. As of midnight local time, the bankrupt utility giant had shut off the lights to 877,000 homes and businesses in 38 counties across Northern and Central California — including parts of Oakland and Berkeley, but sparing the city of San Francisco — as it tries to keep power lines from igniting wildfires during the strongest wind storm in years.

Two wineries in the region owned by Coppola, a five-time Oscar winner, aren’t in immediate danger, but closed their doors Thursday because of smoky air. The Sunday Halloween carnival was also canceled, but its grapes are safe.

“The winery has harvested the majority of our vineyards,” said Corey Beck, Coppola’s chief executive. “The grapes are in production at the winery where we currently have available back-up power if needed.”

Five minutes up Highway 101, Trione Vineyards & Winery will stay closed until at least Monday. That’s the longest ever because of a fire, a spokeswoman said.

“We had a wedding Saturday, and they’ve moved to a San Francisco location,” she said.

Weather models show the wind storm could be the most powerful to hit California in years, according to PG&E.

“Very strong winds and low humidity will combine to produce an environment conducive to explosive wild fire growth and spread given ignition,” said the National Weather Service Sunday.

California is the world’s fourth-largest wine producer and source of about 80 percent of U.S.-made wine, according to the Wine Institute. Home to 3,900 wineries and 5,900 grape growers, the state lures 24 million visitors annually to its wine regions, the most in the nation.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Friday, largely blaming PG&E.

“We will hold them accountable for the business interruption and costs associated with these blackouts,” he said in a news conference. “We will do the same with the other two investor-owned utilities in Southern California.”