Carrie Rengers

Wichita-related wineries mostly untouched by fire

A group of eight Wichitans enjoyed a weekend in Napa Valley before having to evacuate due to wildfires in the area. They visited Wichitan Tom Futo, center, at his Futo Winery. Also included, from left, are Ellen Winter, Sylvia Do, Stella Galichia and Betsy Redler.
A group of eight Wichitans enjoyed a weekend in Napa Valley before having to evacuate due to wildfires in the area. They visited Wichitan Tom Futo, center, at his Futo Winery. Also included, from left, are Ellen Winter, Sylvia Do, Stella Galichia and Betsy Redler. Courtesy photo

The eight Wichita residents – including three physicians, a couple of businessmen and spouses – who escaped recent wildfires in Napa Valley haven’t been the only Wichitans to escape serious harm there.

Wichitans Tom and Kyle Futo and former Wichitan Leslie Rudd and their wineries are doing mostly all right, too.

“The vineyards look like they came through intact,” Tom Futo says of his Futo Estate.

He and his wife own two properties there. At one, they lost a barn and some agricultural equipment.

“All in all, it looks pretty good,” Futo says. “We’re extremely lucky.”

Wendi Green, marketing director for the Rudd Collection, says fire stopped on a hillside about three quarters of a mile south of one of Rudd’s vineyards.

At another property on Mt. Veeder, which had to be evacuated, she says they received word from a neighbor who did not evacuate that the vineyards survived.

Some equipment was damaged along with some small structures. There’s a farm on the property that grows produce and raises chickens, and Green says there aren’t final details yet on how it fared.

Green says staff most likely won’t be able to have access to the property for another week.

“It’s kind of a day-by-day type of thing,” she says.

A week and a half after the fires started in that area, they have yet to be extinguished. At least 41 people are dead, about 60 are unaccounted for in Napa and Sonoma counties and more than 210,000 acres are scorched along with thousands of structures.

Rudd’s Press restaurant and the famous Oakville Grocery have been untouched by fire.

“We’re very fortunate,” Green says. “Our businesses thus far are safe.”

She says Oakville Grocery remains open to the public, and the business also is serving daily coffee, breakfast and lunch for first responders.

Press is closed to the public, but it also is producing meals for first responders.

“We’re just very thankful that all of our staff members are safe and that we have staff members who are able to come to work,” Green says.

Futo says there were “just incredible winds” with gusts of up to 90 miles an hour that combined with extremely dry conditions to start the fires.

The area has little rain from the middle of May to the middle of October, he says, “which is what makes it so great for grape growing.”

“You had the perfect conditions for a fire like this,” Futo says. “All it takes is an ignition from anything, and that fire takes off.”

Helicopters have been dropping water on vineyards and properties, including Futo Estate.

“It’s about the best it’s been since the fire started,” Futo says of the situation.

He says people in the area are sharp, hard-working and resilient.

Futo is almost hesitant to say it, but he says, “I’m assuming every day gets a little bit better.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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