*** Update ***
As of July 13, evacuation orders for the affected wineries have been lifted.
Aniche Cellars is now back open and is releasing Inferno, a smoked kissed red blend, with $2 of every bottle donated to the Underwood local fire department.
On Saturday, July 15, South Hill Winery is saying thank you to all who helped to fight the Tunnel 5 Fire. All proceeds from tasting room wine sales that day will be donated to the Underwood Fireman’s Fund, helping to support the volunteer firefighters that donate their time.
Loop de Loop Wines is now open regular hours. ***
Wildfire season in the Pacific Northwest is here, and a number of Washington wineries are currently being affected by the Tunnel 5 Fire in Underwood, Washington.
The Tunnel 5 Fire broke out on Sunday, July 2, just before 11:30 a.m. near milepost 61 on Washington State Route 14. Evacuation orders quickly went in place for the affected area, with several winery properties on that map. The fire moved toward Cook-Underwood Road. Fortunately, it did not cross the road to Willow Wine Cellars and Hawkins Cellars, thanks to the efforts of fire crews on scene. The fire was up to 556 acres as of July 6, with 5% containment and 461 personnel working on the effort.
Wineries including Willow Wine Cellars, AniChe Cellars, Hawkins Cellars, Savage Grace Wines and Loop de Loop Wines immediately put into effect emergency closures at their tasting rooms, evacuating the premises, and leaving their winery and stock. Many of the owners and winemakers also have homes on their winery properties, along with estate vineyards nearby. Hawkins Cellars was finishing up construction of a new winery building at the end of June. The efforts of firefighters have been tremendous, preventing the fire from jumping Cook-Underwood Road and keeping these winery buildings from harm.
“The flow of business is certainly interrupted — bottling, wine sales, vineyard work,” says Tarnna Simpers, who owns Willow Wine Cellars with her husband Brendan.
While smoke has been heavy, it’s too early in the growing season to impact grapes. “It’s always nerve-racking when the air is smoky, even if the fire has moved on,” says Simpers, noting that her husband was able to visit the property on Wednesday. “Brendan decided not to top the barrels while the air is like that.”
For Loop de Loop Wines, which focuses on low-intervention winemaking, bottling and vineyard work has been halted until they’re able to return to their estate vineyard and winery. “We just don’t know at this point how long it will be until we can safely and respectfully return,” says Julia Bailey Gulstine, who runs the winery with her husband Scott. Thankfully, because the grapes are still just tiny clusters, with no sugar accumulation yet, their estate vineyard should be out of the clear when it comes to issues with smoke taint.
The Beverage Community Rallying Together
It goes without saying that the craft beverage community is one that supports each other across the Pacific Northwest. And right now, they are certainly showing up for those impacted by the Tunnel 5 Fire. “The wine community is amazing,” says Simpers. “We have had so many people reach out — other wineries in the Gorge offering everything from a place to store our wine to people asking to pour our wine or asking us to come pour places.”
While the wineries remain closed, it is possible to both purchase wine online through their websites or purchasing wines through retailers. The summer tasting-room season brings in much of the revenue these wineries see, which is being heavily impacted by closures.
In addition to the support these wineries have received, craft beverage makers are assisting the community in other ways. Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River, Oregon, is offering meals to those who have been affected and displaced by the Tunnel 5 Fire. Backwoods Brewing Company in Carson, Washington, has been providing meals and discounts to the firefighters and emergency personnel working to battle the fire. Those who wish to support this initiative can donate to a gift card fund at Backwoods. In White Salmon, Washington, Everybody’s Brewing served as a donation station for items such as granola bars, beef jerky, bottled water and Gatorade, though they are not currently collecting items due to the high volume of donations already received.
To support the Underwood, Washington, wineries affected by this fire in person, keep an eye on their social media pages and websites for information regarding reopening.
Willow Wine Cellars
10481 Cook-Underwood Rd, Underwood, WA
71 Little Buck Creek Rd, Underwood, WA 98651
10401 Cook-Underwood Rd, Underwood, WA 98651
Savage Grace Wines
442 Kramer Rd, Underwood, WA 98651
Loop de Loop Wines
451 Kramer Rd, Underwood, WA
South Hill Winery
801 Scoggins Rd Box 235, Underwood, WA 98651