California Wine Country Will Rise Again

California Wine Country Will Rise Again

Having many friends and colleagues in the wine business, we were compelled to dedicate a blog to address the horrific wildfires that have befallen the west coast, impacted 12 states including lovely California and the wine regions of Napa Valley, Sonoma, Monterey, and Santa Cruz counties.  First, hit hard by LNU Complex fires in August, followed by the Glass Fire at the end of September. The world is heartbroken as we witness the impact and recovery of the wine hospitality business from Covid-19 but now dealing with the wrath of wildfires that ravaged the state’s northern forests and countryside.

As of this date, the majority of residents were evacuated from their homes as fires raced quickly through the abovementioned regions. Seeing the hovering red smoke blanket, not just the area where the fires are actually burning, but the haze that engulfs nearby cities.  On our social media feeds we’ve witnessed horrific pictures of areas of Northern California impacted just by the smoke including the San Francisco bridge surrounded by a red hue of smoky haze.   Watching the amazing video clips of battle-weary fire crews and some determine vineyard owners doing everything humanly possible to contain the fires and prevent embers from doing more damage to residences and businesses.

While vintners begin to assess the property damage, reports relate some were relatively untouched, while others lost buildings, or vineyards which hadn’t been harvested.  One undeniable concern for growers whose crops were left intact is the phenomenon called smoke taint in which the smoke that lingers on the grapes can affect the flavors and aromas of wine resulted in becoming undrinkable.  According to Wine Spectator, depending on the levels of smoke, the taste can be compared to a campfire, an ashtray, and char left in a barbeque.   Smoke taint is not easily detected and the impact may not be revealed until after the grapes are fermented.   Producers will monitor their crops, use labs to test grapes, and assess whether to release a wine if there is any evidence of smoke taint exposure.  Ultimately, the effects of smoke taint have the potential to be devastating financially to producers of wine grapes.  Depending on the locale, vintners are making the determination to harvest or to not have a 2020 vintage at all to protect the reputation of the brand.

Extensive List provided by Wine Spectator on ways to help:

·         The Napa Valley Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund – provides short term and long term assistance for survivors of the               wildfires.

·         The Napa Valley Community Organizations Active in Disaster – offers assistance and resources for individuals impacted by the fires

·         UpValley Family Centers – provides disaster relief for families that live in Napa’s “up valley” communities

·         United Sommeliers Foundation – supports sommeliers, tasting room staff, and harvest workers affected by the fires

·         Direct Relief – provides N95 masks, medicine, and other resources to healthcare agencies and first responders in wildfire-affected              communities

·         The California Fire Foundation – provides financial assistance to families of fallen firefighters, firefighters and the communities they             protect

·         Jamerson Animal Rescue

·         Redwood Credit Union Community Fund – offers assistance to survivors who lost their homes in Sonoma, Marin, Napa, and Lake               Counties

·         Redwood Empire Food Bank – provides food to displaced Sonoma County residents

·         Ceres Project

·         Sonoma Family Meal

·         California Community Foundation

·         The Latino Community Foundation’s Wildlife Relief Fund

·         World Central Kitchen – led by chef Jose Andres and his team of volunteers in serving 3,000 meals everyday to first responders and victims of the Glass Fire

·         Red Cross – visit their site to make monetary donations to assist survivors of the West Coast Wildfires

The comeback spirit and determination of the layers of people (vineyard owners, the workers, the wineries, the tourist /hospitality industry) that depend on wine as their livelihood is inspiring and a lesson for us all.  Even in times of adversity, comes innovation as some wineries and distilleries have partnered to experiment successfully with methods to produce spirits with smoke tainted grapes.  With the commitment to growing the best grapes and the understanding that some things are just out of their control in the agriculture business be it the lack of rain, droughts, and the devastating wildfires.   Just being resolved to rebuild and commit to being even better. 

As we all get used to this new landscape of traveling during and post-pandemic, a direct way of supporting and fortifying our west coast wine regions recovery is to spend your future tourist and events scheduling (weddings, wine tours, etc.).  And certainly, adding to your wine collection or holiday gift-giving by purchasing California brands impacted by the fires is impactful in helping our coastal neighbors rise once again.  

Thanks to the following sources for providing valuable content information:

Wine Spectator – How you can help

Wine Magazine – Smoke-Tainted Wine Grapes Find New Purpose in Craft Spirit

Hat Tip to all the photographers in shooting outstanding photos of wine life:

Aga2rk – vineyard in Autumn

Tim Mossholder – Cambria Winery at Sunset

Jeff Siepman – Wine Being Poured

David Mark – Countryside in Napa Valley

Chistelle Prieur – Bee Feeding on Grape’s Nectar

Jill Wellington – beautiful purple grapes

Richarem – grape picker

Monica Volpin – vineyard

Skeeze – FireFighter



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