Wine X Online Edition
Wine X Note: We became friends with Igor Sill not long before the terrible fires struck California in 2017. It was bittersweet to have Igor tell his story in Wine X last year. We reached out to Igor several weeks ago to see if he would be willing to give us an update on how he, Sill Family Vineyards and his neighbors were doing. We hope you enjoy!
Unlike my Atlas Peak Mountain winery, I survived the Napa fires and I continue to farm my volcanic high elevation mountain vineyard.
For those in Napa affected by the October 2017 fires there continues to be a very long road ahead for recovery. The Napa fires ignited a life-changing and forever memorable event for all of us in the wine industry. Like many other viticulturists we had just finished our late-season harvest and were focused on fermenting and crafting our 2017 wines when the fires hit. That following morning, a reddish orange sun squinted through the smoke-filled skies as the fire raged on.
For our Atlas Peak Mountain Winery, the raging firestorm fuelled by howling winds claimed our winery, wines ageing in barrels, winery equipment, guest house and all out-buildings—a total loss, but, our Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vineyards emerged unscathed. The fire came up to the very edge of the vineyard and stopped. The vineyards, which are void of chemical fertilizers, hold moisture, acted as a natural firebreak and were an absolute godsend.
Though we lost much, we are truly grateful to the heroic efforts of firefighters and first responders from all over the country who helped protect our lives, homes, wineries, vineyards and businesses. I was completely amazed seeing the stark contrast between our scorched winery remnants and the very much alive, green vineyards that remained untouched once the smoke cleared. I’m absolutely convinced that the vineyards slowed the fire and saved lives.
Even following the fire’s devastation, Napa remains a truly beautiful and magical place, peopled by a very supportive community. While we have been through a heartbreaking event and witnessed so much loss, the outpouring of support from everyone has been amazing.
Napa’s Atlas Peak is well known around the world for its exceptional mountain wines – now Napa’s hottestwine region, so to speak. These mountain vineyards survived the fire and remain home to generations of winemakers whose passion to craft the world’s truly exquisite wines remains our sole pursuit. Signs of rebirth amid the devastation can be seen everywhere. Apart from its volcanic high-elevation terroir and ultra-high-quality grapes that lend these boutique vineyards their magic and mystique, the mountain provides us with much needed promise and hope to the daunting re-building process.
“It’s easy to feel discouraged when faced with the overwhelming challenges of rebuilding a winery while simultaneously launching a high-end wine brand. But, I’ve spent the better half of two decades training and preparing for this adventure, so I’m not ready to give up at the first, second or third pot hole in the road.”
“Right after the fires hit, I thought we might be operational by 2020. But given the complexity of rebuilding on a burn site, the enhanced permit process, I now think we’ll probably have to push that back until 2024, which is disappointing, but certainly not insurmountable. Having said all of that, we’re now well on our way to rising above the ashes. In the rubble, I came across my wine thief (a glass tool for extracting samples of wine from a barrel) that had been incinerated by the fires to the point that it melted into a twisted cylinder of glass. I worship this find as if it represents some relic from a historic archaeological dig. I’ll build a very special place to display it once our winery re-opens.”
Wine is born of passion, evolving over time, offering a truly beautiful thing that speaks to us through heightened sensory emotions that can sometimes reflect wonderful universal mysteries in a surprising fashion, evoking one of life’s many unforgettable pleasures.
“I think it says something about Atlas Peak and the fact that it has taken on magical characteristics all its own. You don’t get these kinds of opportunities during one’s life very often. When you do, you know you have something very special that needs to be done.”