One of the great tragedies of the 2020 wildfires was the destruction of the Sherwin Family Vineyards winery on Spring Mountain. Built through the blood, sweat, and tears of its owner and winemaker Steve Sherwin, the winery housed decades of memorabilia and irreplaceable artwork. The wildfires destroyed 15,000 gallons of wine—the entire 2019 vintage—the first vintage missing in 25 years.
Built on a secluded hillside location that is as much forest as vineyards, the family-owned boutique winery is where Steve and Linda Sherwin raised their family, managed the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot vineyards, and produced their prized high-elevation fruit and wine. Steve’s son and General Manager Matt Sherwin re-counted the days that led up to the ultimate destruction of the winery:
“Over the weekend, wildfires were threatening Howell Mountain. My sister lives there, so that’s where we were focused. We relocated her to our property near the winery—my parents have a house there, and so do I. And then, on Sunday night, out of the blue, my brother-in-law got a call from someone in the fire department who said, ‘Don’t pack, just leave.’ We raced out and drove down the mountain with flames on both sides of the road until we got to the bottom.”
Steve Sherwin refused to leave the property, staying there throughout the next three days even when fire trucks could not make it through. “My Dad never left the mountain; he stayed there doing what he could to hold off the fires.” Matt and others tried to help by using chainsaws on the trees that had fallen across the road up the mountain, clearing the way so that fire trucks could get through—if there were any available. Firefighters did make it through and sprayed down the property. But unfortunately, despite all these efforts, on September 28, the winery went up in flames. A propane tank caught fire and burst, and the fire melted the underground water lines. There was nothing more they could do.
Turning to Offense
Once the fires subsided and the damage was surveyed, the family realized how lucky they were that their homes and vineyards had been largely spared. Steve told his family, “Now our goal is to be the first winery in the valley to build back. Time to turn to offense.” That is the kind of spirit that emerged post-wildfires. Other wineries contacted the Sherwins, offering to process their fruit. Matt explained how one of their storage facilities for library wines and cased foods, Valley Wine Warehouse, called to say they had space if the Sherwins wanted to use a corner to pack and ship wine sales. Their most significant source of income is their wine club, Cellar Scrappers. Because of the kindness and generosity of their neighbors, remarkably, they were able to ship the wine club in October.
“People were crazy good to us,” Matt shared. The Sherwin family turned to offense. They began rebuilding the winery and ordering equipment right away. The building is now taking shape, and the new tanks have been installed in the cellar. At this pace, it looks like the family will meet their goal of harvesting and making wine in their new facility by fall 2021.
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Article By: Layne Randolph // Photos By: Sherwin Family Vineyards