California Wildfires: Distillery Making Vodka from Smoke-Steeped Napa Grapes, Raising Money for Firefighters

by Jon D. B.

Seen here in startling photos, the raging California Wildfires have taken an immense toll on vineyards. Yet in true American fashion – ingenuity, and fantastic vodka – follows.

As California continues to battle historic wildfires, entrepreneurs are turning losses into gains. One distillery in the East bay is leading the charge, turning smoke-steeped Napa grapes into glorious vodka.

Hangar 1 Distillery is currently distilling a one-of-a-kind liquor, but they see the bigger picture, too. All sales of their Hangar 1 Smoke Point Vodka will also benefit the California Fire Foundation. How’s that for a win-win?

The Alameda County company would have hundreds of thousands of smoke-tinged grapes after the horrific Glass Fire California Wildfire of 2020. Harvested from Napa, these charred California Malbec and Merlot grapes are now producing a vodka with subtle notes of fruit, licorice, in addition to allspice, cites Hangar 1.

ST. HELENA, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 30: Wine grapes hang from fire damaged grapevines at a vineyard on September 30, 2020 in St. Helena, California. The fast moving Glass Incident Fire, also called the Glass Fire, has burned nearly 50,000 acres in Sonoma and Napa counties and has destroyed numerous wineries and structures. The fire is two percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

And for just $20, Outsiders can sample this exclusive vodka at a Hangar 1 tasting. Your $20 includes a single 1.5 ounce Smoke Point ‘mini-martini’. So wear your mask, as Hangar 1 politely asks, to enter the tasting room – and enjoy.

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It’s a spirit-lifting development after the catastrophic toll wildfires have taken on California in recent years. 2020 and 2021, specifically, have seen the largest wildfires in the state’s history.

HEALDSBURG, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 20: Local residents sit next to a vineyard as they watch the LNU Lightning Complex fire burning in nearby hills on August 20, 2020 in Healdsburg, California. The LNU Lightning Complex fire is spread over 5 counties and has burned over 130,000 acres. The out-of-control wildfire has destroyed at least 50 homes and is zero percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“One year after the devastating Glass Fire in Northern California, Hangar 1 is partnering with Crimson Wine Group on this limited-edition bottling,” Hangar 1 says in their statement. “It is an experiment in terroir and also sustainability, made from smoke-tinged California Malbec and Merlot grapes distilled at the Hangar in Alameda, CA.”

From the Glass Fire and LNU Lightning Complex Fire, 2020’s August Complex would become the largest fire to ever burn California. Over 1 million acres would burn, in addition to countless structures and numerous lives.

2021 Looks to Match 2020’s Record Fires

This year’s Dixie Fire, however, is coming close. As of this article, over 960,000 have burned.

CALISTOGA, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 01: The Glass Fire burns up to a vineyard October 01, 2020 in Calistoga, California. The fast moving Glass Incident Fire, also called the Glass Fire, has burned 56,000 acres in Sonoma and Napa counties and has also destroyed numerous wineries and structures. The fire is five percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

As for the foundation Hangar 1’s vodka benefits, the California Fire Foundation is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization. They provide emotional and also financial assistance to families of fallen firefighters, firefighters and the communities they protect.

Around since 1987, California Professional Firefighters serve as the foundation’s founding fathers. In the decades since, CFF has become the leading provider of assistance for Californians. They’re setting the example for non-profits. Outsider absolutely approves.

Keep on keepin’ on, Californians. Amidst the devastating wildfires in California and across the West, that’s all we can do.