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Wine Country: Wildfires & Trip Overview

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My Wine Country Experience

Whew, I can not believe it has been eleven days since I last posted. But as you know I took a trip to Northern California wine country for the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference and then added a couple of days of touring with a dear friend.  To be sure, I had no real idea what I was in for so I had to adjust on the fly. I intended to post while away, but if there is anything that some may know about me, it’s that I am an “all in” kind of person.

As such, I was up early and out late because I did not want to miss a thing. I attended every seminar, excursion, tasting, dinner, celebration, after-party and after-after party until I was falling asleep standing up. Ok, fine not all of the after-parties, these folks are serious, and I could not keep up. In the course of five days, I probably tasted upwards of 300 wines. So please excuse my absence, but I have lots of great information and fantastic wines for you all that I plan to share. Hang on…. here we go!

Wildfires: My “On The Ground” POV

wine country wildfires
Life springs eternal

Given the coverage on the national news and my personal experience between reporting and reality, I could not start talking about my experiences without first addressing the wildfires and the aftermath. This post is not a bashing of the media. They did their job under harrowing circumstances. But the story is much bigger than a 1-minute report from the front lines. Much like Charleston after last year’s Hurricane Matthew, the 500-year flood two years ago or this year’s Hurricane Irma we were back to work and back to our lives and the normalcy of the day soon after. That is not news, so it is not reported. So now that the fires are out, you are not reading, hearing or seeing that wine country is back in business.

A Tragedy & A Disaster

Yes, the wine country wildfires were a human and economic disaster, and enough can not be said for the lives lost, the homes and neighborhoods destroyed and the businesses in ruins. That is what you read about and saw on tv, and it is all true. However, what you did not see nor hear is most of the area was not impacted once the fires were extinguished. The smoke has cleared, both literally and figuratively and wine country in Sonoma, Napa, Mendicino Counties are open for business so do not cancel nor delay your trip.

During my five days on the ground, I met several people who lost their homes in the fires. They all work in the wine and tourism industry. The first thing they all said to me was, “Thank you for coming. We really appreciate you being here.” It was not about their losses, it is about their livelihoods and that they need us to get things back to normal. I get that and so I want to help in whatever little way I can. So please keep reading.

Statistics you may not have heard or seen from the reporting:

  • Slightly less than 1% of Napa County wineries (5 out of over 500+) experienced significant damage from the fires and the degree of significance varies greatly.
  •  98% of Sonoma wineries were not affected by the fires.
  • 90% of Sonoma County is not affected by the wildfires.
  • Out of the more than 425 wineries in Sonoma County, only one was destroyed by the fire. That winery is Paradise Ridge but they still have a tasting room open in the town of Kenwood, and they are selling wine online. Go here to buy some.

This statement is directly from Paradise Ridge Winery’s website: The winery may be broken, but our estate vineyards survived, which is the foundation of our wine. Fortunately, the majority of our bottled wines are stored safely off-property.

wine country wildfires
The burn is stopped by the vines as the flames surged up the hill.
  • Vineyards actually acted as firewalls slowing and stopping the fires from spreading.
  • Over 90 % of the new harvest was completed before the fires broke out.
  • Most of the 2017 vintage is already in tanks and is not affected.
  • One winemaker with whom I spoke, told me he had sent the juice out for testing to ensure that the wines are free of any effects from the smoke. He will continue doing so to make sure that this wine is of the highest quality. He assured me that others are doing the same.
  • Signorello Estates Winery – The one you saw on TV and in every news story online lost all of their buildings but are rebuilding. The vineyards are fine and they have wine for sale for its members. They are down for now but not out.
  • The majority of the acreage burned was up in the mountains.

wine country wildfires

Donate to Assist with this Tragedy

This post is not in any way, discounting the tragedy felt by the residents in the Coffee Park neighborhood or the Fountain Grove area that were completely burned. The residents and businesses in these areas and other smaller pockets in the fire’s path have been severely impacted, and my heart goes out to them. If you are so inclined, please donate to the rebuilding efforts. Your donation can be as specific as you want at the North Bay Fire Donation List.

wine country wildfires
Walking out the back door of Robert Sinskey Winery you can see that the fires came very close. But they were spared any significant damage thanks to the efforts of the first responders.

What more can you do?

What I hope comes across in this post is that wine country is open and waiting for you.

  • If you have a visit planned, do not cancel your trip. Go, they are waiting for you.
  • If you were thinking of going to Sonoma or Napa Valley wine country, just do it. It will be a great experience.
  • Do you have a Napa or Sonoma winery membership that has lapsed? Now is a great time to renew it.
  • If you have been thinking of getting a membership at a Napa or Sonoma winery, do it now.
  • Buy wine directly from the wineries online. Many do not require membership to purchase.
  • If you can’t do any of the above? Then next time you are in a restaurant, order a bottle of Napa, or Sonoma wine.

Some websites to get more information about traveling to wine country

What you will not see here

During my visit, we spent a lot of time on the roads as I shot wine-related images for my portfolio. Thus it was inevitable that we drove by burned houses, cars, and a couple of businesses. Out of respect for the people who lost so much, you will not find any images of that devastation here.

 

That is all for now.

Cheers,

rick

 

Thanks to the Napa Valley Vintner’s Association and Cheryl Sarfaty, Public Relations Coordinator from Sonoma County Tourism for some of the statistics provided for this post.

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2 Comments

  1. I’m so glad to know that the devastation wasn’t quite as bad as what’s been on the news. It’s horrible enough that all of those people lost their homes, livelihoods, and even some their lives. Thank you for sharing all of this info! I’ll definitely be ordering Napa + Sonoma wines for the foreseeable future.

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