Sonoma Saved from Fire by Wine!

Sonoma saved from fire by wineIn the hot, early autumn of 1911, disaster befell a cobbler in the town of Sonoma on the main plaza.  His shop was ablaze, and the shops and hotels near him were in danger.

The town had one fire truck and 100 firefighters, and they descended on the plaza.  The scene was a calamity. The winds changed and the fire burned up the street, even catching the grass on the plaza on fire.  The fire headed to Spain Street. 

When fire landed on the wine-cellar roof of Agostino Pinelli, he said the equivalent of “Oy Vey!” in Italian.   The fire truck was too far away to help, so he rounded up some firefighters.  Pinelli and the firefighters connected a hose and pump to a 1,000 gallon tank of his wine.  The Sonoma Index Tribune reported, “A powerful stream of red wine was directed on the burning wine cellar.”

The fire destroyed most of the buildings on 1st St. East.  Pinelli’s red wine saved his cellar and kept the fire from spreading to other buildings on the plaza.  Pinelli’s building still stands on 1st Street East near Spain.  It was built in 1891 by the Pinelli family from stone they quarried themselves.  Pinelli also helped Sam Sebastiani get started in the quarrying business before he founded Sebastiani Winery.

The Pinelli building is now home to shops and offices, including the Sonoma Wine Shop.  Stop in and take a look around.  You’ll probably be the only visitor who knows the story of that infamous fire and the man who helped save the plaza with his red wine!

Writer: Meredith Blevins, featured travel writer for the Authentic Wine Country.  Join her at for wine-country mysteries, classes, and the untamed west.

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