Following the devasting fires that raged through northern California wine country, the wineries are up and running, and open to visitors, writes Bob Ecker
On the night of Sunday, October 8th, 2017, Northern California Wine Country was hit with a dangerous “perfect storm” of atmospheric conditions combining warm temperatures, extremely low humidity, bone-dry fields and forests, and very strong winds. Beginning at 9:52 pm, 17 wildfires swept throughout the vineyards of Napa,
Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino Counties. These fires were big and fast moving and among the worst in California’s history. The result was a tragic toll on some communities, notably in Santa Rosa in Sonoma County. Some people lost their lives, many were evacuated and some people are still displaced. Approximately 1,200 of California’s 4,600 wineries are situated in Lake, Mendocino, Napa, and Sonoma counties.
Yet it could have been much worse. Firefighters mobilized quickly and crews from around California and beyond poured into battle the Atlas, Nuns, Tubbs and Redwood Valley fires among others. As heavy smoke shrouded much of Wine Country, teams of first responders made headway against the blazes, and almost all of these fires were extinguished. Volunteers helped out and nearby unaffected communities rallied to assist.
Happily, the smoke has long since blown away as Wine Country gets back to business. Most wineries, restaurants, hotels and related business are back open and undamaged. Another fortunate development was that when the fires hit, about 90% of the grapes in Wine Country had already been harvested. It turned out that the healthy vineyards proved to be a very effective firebreak – the Napa Valley floor carpeted with expensive vineyards was left unharmed.
Dr Anita Oberholster, cooperative extension specialist in Enology, University of California, Davis, said, “Although any loss is heartbreaking – we currently have confirmed reports of only 15 wineries that were totally destroyed or severely damaged by the fires – this is a very small percentage and we urge potential visitors to continue their planned visits and support the grape and wine industry in Northern California.”
This extract is taken from an article that appears in Issue 2, April-Jun 2018