Thursday, October 27, 2011

.Chuck Fiola Seriously Injured in Tractor Accident

Monday night Chuck Fiola, owner of Konnowac Vineyards, was critically injured while loading a truck with grapes from his 18 acre vineyard here in the Rattlesnake Hills. I got a call Tuesday afternoon from Ashley at Flying Trout that the accident happened and that Chuck had been flown to Harborview and was in critical condition in intensive care.
Let me digress a little here. You probably haven’t heard of Chuck or Konnowac Vineyards even though it was planted in the early ‘80s in the Rattlesnake Hills and has been supplying fine grapes to wineries all over the state. The reason is the Wine Commission from their ivory towers in Seattle is only aware of four vineyards in the state. They should get off their fat salaries and see the people who pay their bills. When someone wants to do an article about vineyards in Washington, it contacts the Wine Commission and they give the same four names. Rather than do some research and find a new story, they follow the lead and we get the same old story (yawn) over and over again. Find some new material, guys.
Little is known how the accident happened, but I believe he has one of those forklift attachments on his tractor. He was loading a flatbed truck in the dark on uneven ground and the tractor tipped over on to him, crushing his pelvis.
Ashley indicated that they needed help getting the rest of the crop off for Chuck. I made a couple of calls and within two hours I had four tractors and five crews ready to pitch in. Pat Rawn, Two Mountain Winery and Sheridan Vineyards offered up a crew and a tractor, Bonair was able to spare a tractor and could probably get a crew, Roger Althoff, Tanjuli Winery offered to be a crew boss and coordinate picking, and Joe Hattrup, Elephant Mountain Vineyards offered to take care of it all. In the end, Joe did the whole thing since his vineyard is only a quarter of a mile up the road and the rest of us are several miles away. All the wineries that had contracted grapes (yes, we have grapes here in the Rattlesnake Hills this year – lots of them) were taken care of as well as Chuck’s vineyard.
I think it is a great story about how in a short amount of time, neighbors can rally to help a fellow farmer in need. Thank you to all that volunteered and a big thanks to Joe Hattrup, Elephant Mountain Vineyard for getting it done.
Chuck isn’t out of the woods by a long way. He is still in an induced coma facing more surgery, but we hope he gets better really soon.


  1. I hope Chuck recovers very quickly.
    And what great friends and neighbours he has! I am so impressed how winemakers can help each other in times of crisis.

  2. Update: Chuck had a low tire. This really destabilizes a tractor. Trust me, I have been there. I put up the roll bar strapped on my seat belt and got out of there.
    Chuck is still in intensive care. Our thoughts are with him and Claudia.