If you’ve fantasized about visiting California’s beautiful Napa and Sonoma wine country but still have not fulfilled that dream, well, now is the perfect time.
I’ve recently relocated to the wine country, living in Sonoma and working in Napa Valley. The northern California wildfires did indeed impact the wine country, but not in the way most people think. News coverage makes it seem as if the fires have taken out every vineyard and tasting room in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and counties beyond – and that’s just not the truth.
Let me explain.
When a natural disaster strikes a side effect is that we are bombarded with images of the ravaged area. True, we need to be aware of what is happening where and the severity. The problem, I think, lies in the 24/7 information culture we live in. An article that is days old will live forever on the internet. If we are not diligent in fact-checking we become part of the problem, spreading incorrect information.
Of the over one thousand plus wineries and tasting rooms in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, fewer than 5% have reported fire or smoke damage.
Additionally, more than 90% of the crop had already been harvested. The remaining grapes that were still awaiting harvest were the thicker skinned varietals that are mostly impervious to the smoke. 2017 will be a good vintage.
Let me say it again – The perfect time to visit Napa and Sonoma is now.
Calistoga, a hamlet of 5,000 in northern Napa Valley, was one of the towns that was evacuated. The fire came dangerously close. Though the town was spared, the economic loss was enormous. In all, about a week of business in the peak tourist season has been lost.
Calistoga’s main street is lined with small shops, restaurants, tasting rooms and galleries. With the loss of several 1000 homes and income (gardeners, pizza parlors, dry cleaners, florists, pool cleaners, donut shops, all of the independently owned businesses) will have a ripple affect across the board.
For visitors, now is actually the perfect time to visit. Many hotels have dropped their rates significantly. Spas and other businesses are offering discounts. On Highway 29, the main road through the NapaValley, traffic is flowing. Normally in October, traffic can be annoying. The tasting rooms are not as busy, especially mid-week. That means you can get some personalized attention. Imagine having Napa all to yourself! Well, almost.
And let’s not forget our friends in Sonoma county. Dry Creek and Russian River Valley are two popular wine areas that saw no damage at all from the fires or smoke. Yet they, too, have lost tourists.
Here’s how you can help — come visit.
Enjoy fine dining in Michelin-starred restaurants or your favorite pizzeria. Soak in the mineral waters and mud baths of Calistoga. Kayak, hike and bike the many trails. If you can’t make it in person now, buy a gift certificate for that you can use later to benefit from the savings today. Buy wine online!
Vincent Arroyo Winery in Calistoga is known for their 100% Petite Sirah wines. This is not an easy wine to find and Vincent Arroyo is one of the best. You can buy gift certificates online. Or if you visit the tasting room from now to through the end of November and purchase wine, they will donate 20% of the proceeds to the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund.
Come have a drink with me and let’s toast to supporting Napa and Sonoma county post fire.
Check the magnificent redwood trees at Armstrong Park in Sonoma County.
Try the Visit Napa Valley website for ideas and organizations that are donating to relief efforts for victims.
Sonoma County has a great newsletter with lots of information on where to go to make the most of your time there
And read what Forbes has to say about why NOW is the best time to visit Napa and Sonoma Valleys.
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