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California wine country tries to get back to business despite wildfire destruction

JOANNE JENNINGS:

The tasting room, which also housed the winery’s office and a dining room, burned to the ground. But Birebent says he wants to focused on what survived.

Fortunately, he said, the fire stopped short of reaching the vineyard, the crush pad, or any of the barrels of wine stored on site; 95 percent of this year’s grapes were already picked.

But, to be on the safe side, Birebent is taking these samples to a lab to make sure the juice is not too acidic for winemaking. If the crops are OK, a staff of 25 employees will have jobs to return to.

As the fires begin to recede and the smoke clears, people here are beginning to wonder when the tourists, who fuel much of the economy, will return.

It’s a serious concern for Andrew and Jeni Schluter, who are self-employed and are raising a young family.

ANDREW SCHLUTER, Andrew’s Tours and Transportation: I do wine tours and transportation for people. And my business started to do really, really well. I was on track to have the best month ever.

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