Return to Paradise
It was two years and two months after the wine country wildfires when I returned to Paradise Ridge Winery to see how the rebuild was coming along. I had no idea it was the first day of their soft opening.
In October of 2017 their hospitality center and production facility burned to the ground. I’ve come to know the Byck family fairly well over the years and I’m thrilled to see the return of Paradise. Owner and family member Rene and I sat down in January so he could catch us up on the challenges his family faced the past two years, the new building and some changes they have in mind. See an artist’s rendering of the new building and more at PRWinery.com.
To hear Rene talk about the loss of the winery just 4 months after the fire and see photos of the devastation click here.
After the Democrats’ debate last month, thanks to the tsunami of social media chatter, Wine Country was reduced to a single image: a cave lit by a chandelier with 1,500 Swarovski crystals.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts set off the firestorm when she chastised Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, for holding a fundraiser in a wine cave, saying “Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States.”
Wine Country suddenly found itself a flashpoint among politicos. But, as with all lampoons, there’s much more than meets the eye.
The truth is Wine Country is rustic chic — part BMW, part Chevy pickup.
It’s a quirky crossroads of the entrepreneur and the farmer.
Despite the grim reality that parts of it are a fragile fire zone, most of us will never leave. We’ll always consider this agrarian cradle of grapes paradise.
Rising from the ashes of the Tubbs fire, reconstruction of the Paradise Ridge Winery Event Center is almost complete. The final reveal will be everything it was before, and more, which is a testament to the Byck family’s resilience and commitment to excellence, according to Don Tomasi, Principal with TLCD Architecture, the firm that designed the rebuilt center. Read More.
As about 200 guests gathered on his family’s Fountaingrove wine estate on a picturesque Sunday afternoon, Rene Byck’s greeting to all of them was simple but profoundly heartfelt:
“Welcome back to paradise,” Byck said.
The Byck family was celebrating the grand opening of the new events facility at its Paradise Ridge Winery, which was among the 5,636 structures destroyed in the Oct. 8, 2017, Tubbs fire that also killed 22 people.
The reopening served not only as an important milestone for the local wine sector to have one of its own returning from the ashes, but also for the overall Sonoma County community.
“It feels like our home is back open for people to enjoy,” said Byck, a co-owner of the family winery. “A lot of people had great memories up here.”
The winery had been the setting of more than 1,000 weddings as couples from across the country flocked to the rolling vineyards around the Russian River Valley estate with its bucolic sunset views looking and its sculpture garden featuring its iconic LOVE sign.
Paradise Ridge also hosted a popular wines-and-sunsets series in a small amphitheater with musical guests that attracted many locals, even some who were not major wine aficionados. The family relaunched that event series this summer on a smaller scale. Read More.
In Part 2 of our ongoing series showcasing Paradise Ridge Winery’s journey to re-build all that was lost to the historic Fall 2017 Tubbs fire, the construction efforts are moving along swiftly as the new Tasting Room starts to take shape – stay tuned for continuing installments of the update series, culminating in the plans for a grand re-opening Fall 2019!
In the fall of 2017, a firestorm enveloped our iconic estate property along with most of the homes and businesses around us. This misfortune has not diminished the Byck family’s strength or resolve to share “Paradise” with the world. A rebuild is underway and here is part one of five of a video series documenting the story.
Now that 2018 is here, we are looking forward to new beginnings for Paradise Ridge. With the fires taking so much from so many, the last few months of 2017 were a surreal and difficult time. The grief of our community’s loss was softened by the incredible LOVE Sonoma County received from all over the world. It is true, from the ash springs hope. With each new green leaf and blade of grass, we see life coming back to the beautiful land we call Paradise. The love our incredible community continues to give us the inspiration we need to move forward.
I’m sure many of you have been wondering what we have been up to. To be honest it has been a bit of a rollercoaster. Each week seems to bring challenges and unexpected obstacles in our path to rebuild. As with many others who lost their homes and property, we have found that navigating our way through recovery is not easy. With each step forward it seems we find more problems than answers. Rebuilding our database, finding a new home for our winemaking, setting up a new office, navigating insurance, debris removal, permits, renewing licenses and the piles of paperwork that need to be filled out has definitely created stress and emotional hardship. Yet every day also sends us a little something to keep us going; a club member stopping by Kenwood to see how we are doing, an email from a friend letting us know they are thinking of us, a post on social media showing our friends enjoying their cherished bottle of Paradise Ridge wine. It is these little things that bring us strength and healing.
A couple of weeks ago Dan (my husband and our winemaker) and I were in Fort Worth Texas visiting friends. These friends happen to also be wine club members and after the fires they immediately set about arranging a Paradise Ridge gathering for their friends and family. Spending an evening surrounded by people who share our loss and also our hopes for the future was magical. You may see Dan on the road a little more this year, touching base and sharing wine with our friends and supporters. Please be sure to reach out and let us know if you would like him to visit your town.
For the more practical minded people reading this, you are probably wondering how is the rebuild moving along? This is the big question and it is difficult to know exactly what the next two years will bring. We are finding the costs to rebuild to be much higher than anticipated and unfortunately our insurance will not cover those costs. We are looking into many different options, trying to find the best solution for our family and future generations.
In the meantime we are working on ideas to offer tastings and events back on the estate some time mid to late summer 2018. Whether this will be a picnic table in the vineyard or something more formal is still unknown. I would personally be thrilled to see small weddings take place at the LOVE sculpture this year.
Thank you to each one of you for being our inspiration. The stories and pictures shared of your time in Paradise is beautiful. For those who have ordered wines and visited us in Kenwood, we definitely feel your love.
Wishing you a year filled with happiness & of course extraordinary wine.
Happy New Year!!! A new year and a new place to make our wine. It is beautiful and has a fantastic view. Our 2017 vintage wines are going to be special!! Thanks to all your support. 2018 is going to be a great year!!!
Storied Haven (The Boot) has arrived in Paradise. The newest piece to add to the collection. The grounds are still closed, but we are rebuilding to make things even better than before. Thanks Harold for an amazing truck driving skills display!
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Kenwood Tasting Room
Russian River Valley Estate
Santa Rosa, CA