In the Wake of the Fire

Damage in California’s wine country was significant, but not devastating

Having successfully returned from the area of the wildfires in Napa and Sonoma, I wanted to give Out & About readers a quick update on the situation in Northern California.

For the most part, the wineries of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties are open for business, although each area suffered damage to several wineries and vineyards. Wineries that were totally destroyed include Paradise Ridge in Sonoma and Signorello in Napa.

The destruction to the City of Santa Rosa was unbelievable. The Coffey Park area, north of center city, was decimated. Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed, and some lives were lost.

I happen to have been right in the middle of that destruction. In fact, my group of 12 wine lovers that I had taken to tour Napa and Sonoma had to be evacuated from our hotel in the late night/early morning hours of Sunday, Oct. 8 and Oct. 9. The intense firestorm was just across the street from the hotel, where a gas station and a Kmart were engulfed. We were the lucky ones—we lost nothing and were not injured. There were wineries that were destroyed and some lost outer buildings and equipment.

The damage to vineyards, while not significant, did destroy grape vines in the Fountain Grove Appellation in Sonoma, Atlas Peak in Napa and Mount Veeder in Napa and Sonoma. Vineyards create a natural fire break because of the ample space between vines and the amount of water each plant holds. This limited the damage to most wineries in the area. It also was fortunate that the harvest was about 80 percent completed. Most of the wine was already in barrels and will have no smoke problems.

Pricing should remain strong and no price increases are expected. In fact, the best way to support the wine industry in California is to continue to buy wines from the areas that were affected.

And don’t change plans if you intend to travel to the Bay area, but do call ahead to be certain that the wineries remain open. Because of the displacement of much of the work force, tasting room hours may be cut back.

John Murray is co-owner of State Line Liquors and a regular contributor to Out & About Magazine.

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