B.C vintner vows to rebuild after wildfire hits his California winery

A West Vancouver man who owns a California winery, feels fortunate that he didn't lose everything to wildfires and says he plans to rebuild what he lost. Another local winery owner with vines in California says he's keeping a watchful eye on his estate that has not been touched by the fires.

'Within an hour my building was gone,' says winery owner Ray Signorello

A DC-10 aircraft drops fire retardant on a wind driven wildfire in Orange, California, U.S., October 9, 2017. The Lake Sonoma Winery was evacuated on Sunday because of the advancing wildfires. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

A West Vancouver man has lost part of his winery to the fast-moving wildfires in California. 

Ray Signorello, owner of Signorello Estate, says he's fortunate to have not lost it all.

"To be honest, it could have been a lot worse," Signorello stated.

His wife Tanya was at the vineyard as the fire was approaching. 

Signorello says she frantically called him Sunday night around 10:45 p.m. PT, saying the fire was making its way over a nearby ridge and they needed to leave.

"We were basically one of the first buildings to get hit, and within an hour my building was gone."

'There is a silver lining'

While his Napa Valley production facility and his residence have been reduced to rubble, he says his 40-acre vineyard, barrel cellar and tank storage that currently holds his 2017 vintage, all appear to be fine.

According to Signorello, his retail business in California will be out of commission for a year or two, but they will rebuild.

"There's a silver lining here for us, in that no one got hurt."

Signorello says he is grateful for the outpouring of support he's received from other wineries who have not been touched by the rapid moving fires. 

Keeping a watchful eye 

As the flames approach his winery property, another B.C. owner is keeping a close watch on the fast-moving California wildfires that have left at least 21 dead and destroyed more than 3,000 structures. 

Tony Stewart, the CEO of Quails' Gate Winery in West Kelowna and the owner of the Lake Sonoma Winery in the Sonoma Valley, said his winery is so far untouched and his staff is safe.

Lake Sonoma Winery was evacuated on Sunday because of the advancing wildfires. (Lake Sonoma Winery/Facebook)

A burst of wind could be enough to blow the flames down into the valley where his property is though, he told CBC Early Edition host Rick Cluff.

"If you can think of it like many of the valleys here [in B.C.], the fire is kind of creeping down the sides, and it's just a matter of, if the winds come up and pull it down onto the valley floor, where you run into risks," Stewart said.

Staff at the Lake Sonoma Winery had to flee Sunday night.

"They literally had minutes to get out. They went to bed and everything was fine and then they woke up in the middle of the night with fires around them," Stewart said.

'It's catastrophic'

His first concern, Stewart said, is saving people's lives but he is aware of the toll the fires will take on his business right in the middle of harvest season.

"There is no fruit moving at this moment. There are tanks full of wine that [is] fermenting," Stewart said.

"It's catastrophic in terms of that for the wine industry. But certainly, everything has been focused on saving property and lives at this point."

Stewart is no stranger to forest fires in wine country, both in California and B.C., and said he has been in some fairly tenuous situations in the past.

"I think we're going to have to start thinking a little differently and working to listen to experts on what we can do to help mitigate this," he said.

To hear more, click on the audio link below:

A British Columbian winery owner is keeping a close watch on the fast moving fires in California as the flames approach his winery property. 5:27

With files from The Early Edition and CBC News Vancouver at 6.