The Restaurant at Meadowood was one of Napa Valley’s iconic establishments, a Michelin-three-star destination inside a posh resort in St. Helena, Calif., that drew celebrities and wine lovers from around the world.
On Monday, it was destroyed by wildfire that began spreading through the region’s famed wine country on Sunday and has since leveled homes and businesses and resulted in at least three deaths.
Fire crews arrived at the resort in the afternoon and attempted to save the structure, draining the resort’s swimming pools to battle the blaze, according to local news reports. Photos posted by those on the scene later showed the restaurant leveled, except for its staircase and brick fireplaces, though other buildings on the property remained.
Guests and staff had been evacuated the day before, a spokesman for Meadowood’s parent company told the Bay Area News Group. He said the families that own the property plan to rebuild. “Whatever it takes to rebuild and reopen, we’ll do,” he said.
Christopher Kostow, the restaurant’s lauded executive chef, posted a lament on Instagram in which he paid tribute to the staff and guests of the restaurant, which was often referred to by its acronym, TRAM. “We are all torn apart,” he wrote in a caption accompanying a photo of the staff. “A Eulogy is deserved, and will be given in due time … for now, I want to thank all of the TRAMily that have ever graced this magical space — and all of the guests over the years who have enjoyed the efforts of these multitudes.”
Guests and fellow chefs who had celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and engagements at the restaurant took to social media to mourn the destruction and share stories of outstanding meals. “I had some of the best and most memorable times of my life at this restaurant,” wrote Chris Ying, co-founder of the former Lucky Peach magazine. “I can’t bear to see photos of it burning.”
Former “Top Chef” contestant Nicholas Elmi praised Kostow in an Instagram post. “The tragedy that is unfolding on the west coast is harrowing as we’ve just lost one of, if not the best restaurants in America,” the Philadelphia chef and restaurateur wrote.
Meadowood was established in the 1960s as a country club and was eventually converted into a luxe getaway. Its restaurant was award three-Michelin-star status in 2010, putting it in an exclusive club; there are only 14 other U.S. restaurants with three stars.
Kostow has helmed the kitchen since 2008. Michelin raved about his “genius” and the restaurant’s Californian, rustic-luxe decor, a “sophisticated barn of sorts, decked with polished stone tables, wood columns and bucolic splendor.”
“The magic of Chef Christopher Kostow and team lies in their ability to take just-picked produce and create dishes that are the very essence of laid-back luxury,” the 2019 Michelin Guide enthuses.
Meadowood drew VIPs, including former president George W. Bush, who stayed there in 2006 for a getaway that included a meal at the restaurant and a bike-riding excursion nearby. The resort also hosted the annual Auction Napa Valley, a charity event that has developed into a sort of wine-and-food festival with celebrity guest chefs, performances by pop stars and bidders dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars on rare vintages.
The fires have taken a heavy toll on the area’s hospitality, wine and tourist industries, also causing significant damage to Calistoga Ranch, another luxury resort, and destroying or significantly damaging a number of wineries and vineyards.
Those include Chateau Boswell, whose popular castle-like structure was completely engulfed in flames, according to news reports. Fairwinds Estate Winery reports on its website that the winery and its tasting room have been ” very seriously damaged.” Fires destroyed part of the Castello di Amorosa Winery and its wine, the owner told the local ABC affiliate.
Hourglass Winery, Hunnicutt Wines, Newton Vineyard, Sterling Vineyards, and Tofanelli Vineyards also sustained varying levels of damage, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The full extent of the damage isn’t yet known, since many property owners have not been able to return after being evacuated.
Many of these businesses had already been devastated by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and winemakers had already contended with previous wildfires that have put their 2020 harvests in jeopardy. Washington Post wine columnist Dave McIntyre reported that many are waiting for results of tests to determine whether the smoke has damaged their grapes, while some are just sitting out the year.
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