As the smoke clears from the wildfires that ravaged many parts of California in October, Napa and Sonoma Wine Country was finally able to take a breath (literally) and assess the damage. In a unified voice, wineries, tasting rooms, restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality-driven companies have one clear message: We are open for business!
In both Napa and Sonoma, the 2017 harvest was well underway before the flames descended. Representative organizations from both regions report close to 90 percent of grapes were in-tank when the disaster struck, so smoke taint isn’t considered a major threat to quality.
In Napa Valley, the fires burned predominantly in the forested hillsides. The well-known Napa Valley floor, located between Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail, saw little to no impact from the fires. One exception was Signorello Estate’s winery, which was destroyed. “We are grateful that all 25 of our employees are safe, and our vineyards and barrel room were spared from the fire,” said Ray Signorello Jr. on the winery’s website. “We can, and we will, rebuild the winery.”
Sonoma County reports similar outcomes. “All of our members’ wineries and lodgings are OK—with the sad exception of Paradise Ridge, of course,” says Mysty Stewart, PR and social media manager for Wine Road, Northern Sonoma County. “Others were impacted, but most have reopened their doors.” Santa Rosa’s Paradise Ridge Winery was completely destroyed.Said the Byck family (owners of Paradise Ridge) on the winery website: “The winery may be broken, but our estate vineyards survived, which is the foundation of our wine. We are resilient and we will rebuild. Much love to our community.”
In both counties, fundraising and relief efforts are in full swing. The Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund, which was established following the area’s devastating earthquake in 2014, has been reactivated to address community and individual needs. Spirited sister publication The Press Democrat joined with Redwood Credit Union and California State Senator Mike McGuire to form the 2017 North Bay Fire Relief Fund.
Local breweries are also among the community boosters. Sonoma County’s Bear Republic Brewing Company joined forces with the King Ridge Foundation, 101 North Brewing, and St. Florian’s Brewery for a special “Sonoma Pride” release. Russian River Brewing Company raffled chances to cut in line at the 2018 release of its popular Pliny the Younger beer.
Many organizations outside the area have offered assistance as well. So what’s the best way to help the region rebuild? According to Visit Napa Valley, “Wine lovers anywhere in the world can help by enjoying a bottle or glass of their favorite Napa Valley wine. Now more than ever, Napa Valley’s wineries, workers, and community need this support.”
With a similar sentiment, Tim Zahner, interim CEO of Sonoma County Tourism, said, “We’re going to need visitors now more than ever. Getting back to our livelihood of providing hospitality to travelers will be the best way to help Sonoma County get back to work. We want to see you and welcome you to the Sonoma County we all love.”
Participating wineries and other wine loving businesses throughout California are donating a portion of their proceeds during the month of October to support local community relief organizations in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Solano counties. The CAWineStrong Network, a group of wine industry leaders from California’s major winegrowing regions, are asking related businesses, such as wineries, tasting rooms, restaurants and wine bars, to consider partnering in this effort. Information about the campaign is online at CAWineStrong.com.
(Editor’s Note: This is a fluid story, and we’ll continue to update as necessary here and on our Facebook page. We’re already hearing stories of amazing relief efforts, collaborative benefits, and heartwarming fundraisers. If you have a story to share, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
- Joseph Phelps Vineyards donated $100,000 through its Phelps Foundation to support fire relief efforts. Funds will be divided among the Napa Valley Community Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund, Redwood Credit Union’s North Bay Fire Relief Fund, and the Sonoma Humane Society.
- Beckstoffer Vineyards pledged to match Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson’s donation of $1,000 per point (with a minimum $50,000 promise) to the Napa Community Foundation.
- B. Wise Vineyards in Sonoma donated $250,000 to RCU’s Fire Relief Fund.
- For every ticket purchased to its 6th Annual North Coast Wine Industry Expo, Wine Industry Network (WIN) will donate $20 to #CAWineStrong
- For every entry to its 2017 Harvest Challenge, Wine Competitions.com will donate the net portion of proceeds to #CAWineStrong