Glass Half Full: Destroyed Soda Rock Winery Back Open Despite Kincade Fire Devastation

Its historic building flattened by the wildfire's wind-whipped flames, the winery is already open and offering tastings in the old barn that was left standing

What to Know

  • Soda Rock Winery's 150-year-old building went up in flames during the Kincade Fire, leaving only a stone wall still standing
  • Most of the wine was stored off-site, so employees brought cases of it to the old barn left standing after the fire and offered tastings
  • The winery's owner says he plans to offer outdoor tastings while he rebuilds the facility — a process that could take two to three years.

Just a few days after the Kincade Fire ripped through Sonoma County, the Soda Rock Winery is back open and embracing the future one glass of wine at a time. 

The 150-year-old structure was one of hundreds of buildings burned down by the fire, leaving nothing but a blackened stone wall standing amid the charred remains of priceless artwork, memorabilia and wine bottles. Luckily for the winery, most of its wine was stored offsite.

The Kincade Fire leveled the Soda Rock Winery’s main building. In the rubble, steel beams salvaged from a railroad bridge to build the roof lie twisted and bent by the heat. Steel reinforcement visible along the front wall is likely what kept it standing. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

The Kincade Fire completely leveled the Soda Rock Winery’s main building except for its front wall. In the rubble, steel beams that were salvaged from a railroad bridge to build the roof structure lie twisted amid a pile of corrugated roofing. Steel reinforcement along the front wall, now exposed in some places, is likely what kept it standing.

"We opened our tasting room the first Friday after the fires," said Mark Dankowski, an employee at the winery. "The owner wanted to help support the community and let people know we’re gonna rebound from this."

The property dates back to 1869 and was once the Alexander Valley general store. Everything from the steel beams salvaged from an old railroad bridge to the stones from an old Healdsburg schoolhouse had a story.

"The stories that building could tell are probably incredible," Dankowski said. "It survived earthquakes, other fires, but this time, it's gone."

With all its memories reduced to a pile of ashes, the Soda Rock Winery was in no shape to reopen — and yet, it did.

The Soda Rock Winery’s stone facade was left standing after the Kincade Fire destroyed the 150-year-old building. Built with stones from an old Healdsburg elementary school, the wall had just undergone a seismic retrofit — likely why it didn’t collapse. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

The Soda Rock Winery’s stone facade was left standing after the Kincade Fire destroyed the rest of the 150-year-old building. Built with stones taken from an old Healdsburg elementary school, the wall had recently undergone a seismic retrofit, which is likely why it didn’t collapse.

While the fire destroyed the winery's main structure, it did spare the historic barn, built out of old growth redwood — a wood that's naturally fire retardant. The owner, Ken Wilson, has turned the barn into a space for wine tastings — free of charge — while the community makes it a space to share their stories of survival.

The 150-year-old redwood barn at the Soda Rock Winery was scorched, but didn’t catch fire. A spot where horses were once fed, and later where marrying couples exchanged vows, the barn is now the winery’s interim tasting room while a new facility is built. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

The 150-year-old redwood barn on the Soda Rock Winery property was singed by the flames, but didn’t catch fire. A spot where horses were once fed, and later a favorite place for marrying couples to exchange vows, the barn will become the winery’s interim tasting room while a new facility is built.

"We came out here expecting nothing but burned rubble," said Linda Enos, a Santa Rosa resident. "I thought everything was going to be down and it was going to take a while to rebuild, but it’s nice. I think it’s awesome that they’ve set up a tasting room."

Jennifer Gonzalez / NBC Bay Area

Soda Rock Winery plans to hold wine tastings both indoors and outdoors as it makes plans to rebuild the structure and recover from its losses. Dankowski said Wilson hopes to preserve the one stone wall left standing after the fire, and might commission a sculpture to be built out of the building's twisted steel beams.

Jennifer Gonzalez / NBC Bay Area
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