Charles Krug Partners With PG&E To Fight Fires


As epic fires, for a third season in a row, continue to burn in the Napa Valley, wineries are thinking ahead as to how to best quench and prevent them. According to the Associated Press (AP), the 2020 wildfires have scorched a record four million acres and the battle to put them out is far from over. The more than 8,000 separate fires have killed 31 people and destroyed more than 8,400 buildings, according to the AP.

Many communities have been evacuated and wineries executives continue to take stock about how best to move forward. Last week the historic Charles Krug Winery, located just north of the town of St. Helena, decided to work with PG&E to fight the fires. I recently sat down with Judd Wallenbrock, CEO of C. Mondavi & Family—the parent company to Charles Krug—to discuss the new partnership. All responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Liza B. Zimmerman (L.B.Z.): Why did Charles Krug take on this initiative?

Judd Wallenbrock (J.W.):With so many in the Napa Valley not being as fortunate as we are, it is important we do whatever we can to help others in the community; however the question is how. We realized that the Charles Krug Winery estate is situated on the valley floor with a large land footprint located in a very strategic position for those battling the fires and supporting the first responders.

So we contacted PG&E and within hours, we agreed to let them use our fallow land as a command headquarters for wildfire efforts. Also, and perhaps more obviously, the reason we are doing this is to help the community get full power back sooner so we can return to some semblance of normalcy sooner.

L.B.Z.: How long has it been in the works?

J.W.: This was something that we took on at the spur of the moment over the last few days as we knew this was something we would be able to take on because of our centralized location within the Napa Valley and proximity to the Glass fires as well as our almost 11 across of flat, unused land available on our estate.

L.B.Z.: What is Krug giving firefights access to?

J.W.: Over the last couple of days, PG&E has been scraping up the empty field that was once housed the CIA garden and still houses our leach field along with another maybe seven acres of fallow vineyard land to prepare to use this space as one of their command headquarters, which will service their battalion of trucks and equipment needed in the middle of where all the action is.

Lights are already going up and a mini-work city is being built. In the far corner of the field, where our property ends, they have cut out brush and are putting in a temporary bridge to create an access point directly onto Deer Park Road for more efficient traffic flow to the fire zones.

L.B.Z.: How has the effort gone so far?

J.W.: We’re very much in the early stages here, but we are happy to be a resource for the entire region. As I was walking the PG&E headquarters yesterday, a young PG&E official walked up and asked me if he could help me with anything, clearly suspicious of some stranger walking around. I introduced myself and, unprompted, he told me how thankful PG&E was for use of the land, how important and strategic this location is for their operations and what an important service we are doing for the community. It blew me away and made me so proud of our ability to help turn lemons to lemonade under the circumstances.

L.B.Z.: Why did Charles Krug decide to trust PG&E after they took responsibility for some of the past fires?

J.W.: Our perspective is that this initiative plays a direct part in helping to contain the fires—PG&E plays an important role in assessing property damage and mitigating further damage. They will be critical in helping to turn off vulnerable power lines, remove downed equipment and investigate the causes and potential future damage of the fires.

L.B.Z.: Will this be a permanent situation?

J.W.: We expect PG&E to remain set-up at Charles Krug Winery for at least the next two weeks and potentially longer depending on how the situation develops.

L.B.Z.: Was Charles Krug damaged in the fire and if so how?

J.W.: No, Charles Krug Winery was not damaged by the Glass fire. We were very lucky and very grateful that our winery and estate remain safe as of today. We did have one small brushfire near the train tracks that was quickly extinguished by Mondavi family members leading a bucket brigade.



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