TRINITY CENTER, Calif. — Harvest season is crucial to any wine maker, but one Trinity County winery, Alpen Cellars, said harvest came with extra work for them since the Delta Fire is burning right next to them, for the second time.
Alpen Cellars, located across the lake from Trinity Center, has one goal in mind, "Produce the best wine." Owner and Winemaker, Keith Groves, said they produce several award winning varietals but during their 2018 Harvest, the winery has been under evacuation orders twice.
"The Delta Fire came down, there's a mountain down here called Wildcat Peak, it came down to about three quarters of a mile. We could watch it burn all night, we watched the jets. Then it burned behind this ridge and up in that draw so we were very close," said Groves, adding that both the Carr Fire in July and the Delta Fire in September almost compromised his winery.
Now, for the second time, a large spot fire which according to the U.S. Forest Service is part of the Delta Fire, has come close to the winery.
"What we're told as of last night is that [firefighters] have a line around that and they've got hose lines around it so it's going to burn out and probably be done in a couple of days," said Groves.
Thankfully, his grapes perform well under stress. However, smoke resin and ash coating the Alpen Cellars vineyards has affected how they are harvesting this fall.
"The smoke and the haze probably drop the temperature here about five to 10 degrees," said Groves.
Groves said they are harvesting a couple weeks early, and added that they are taking proprietary measures to make sure the fire does not affect the 2018 vintage in a negative way.
"We're washing these with water and then using sprayers, at about 200 mph, so it's blowing any ash away," said Groves.
But, there is another hurdle to jump. The secluded winery depends vastly on tourism, something the fires have hindered.
"We usually get 30, up to 70 guests per day. Right now we're getting one, two," said Groves. "You get to bring your personality into something that people consume and either like or don't like. You get to see the best in people." \
Groves said despite the fires, he'll still be bringing out the best in his grapes, and that people who visit for wine tours, weddings and various family outings are why he loves making wine.