Update: October 31, 2019
The recent fires in Sonoma County were mainly in the northern part of the county and are now over 50% contained. Most of the areas that were evacuated have now had those orders lifted. Understand that the extreme evacuations were precautionary measures. Most of the wine country remains as beautiful as ever. To receive up-to-date information use this link
Healdsburg was never touched by the fire nor was Geyserville. If you have plans to travel there, please DO! They need your business. If you’re uncertain about Sonoma, then consider checking out Napa or Anderson Valley. Use the search bar on the homepage of this site to find more articles about wineries and wine regions in California.
I was working in Napa Valley in 2017 when the fires roared through. I can assure you, if they say they are open and it’s safe, it is. Consider calling ahead to confirm reservations if you have plans in say, Healdsburg, just to make sure they are open again. There was no damage there, but it can take a few days to recover from an evacuation.
If you’ve fantasized about visiting California’s beautiful Napa and Sonoma wine country but still have not fulfilled that dream, the perfect time is now!
Please read the rest of the article and share it with your friends and anyone who is considering a visit to Northern California.
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.
Update: Calistoga was never evacuated in 2019 and they are still recovering from the loss of 2017. Go visit!
Calistoga, a hamlet of 5,000 in northern Napa Valley, was one of the towns 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 effect 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 that you can use later to benefit from the savings today. Buy wine online!
Check out 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.
Here’s a partial list of wineries in Napa that I visited and have not had a chance to write reviews about. They are all open for business.
Inglenook – Touristy but great experience. Inglenook has a long history. Be sure to check out the cafe – the perfect place to stop for a coffee if you’ve had enough wine. But, is that possible?
Robert Sinskey – beautiful tasting room offering food and wine pairings and seated dining. Robert Sinskey specializes in cooler climate varietals and grows most of his fruit in Sonoma County. Beautiful Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and handmade food items you can take home with you.
Gargiulo Vineyards – beautiful wines on acreage with great views across the vineyards. Super knowledgeable staff who deliver a five-star experience. They also have charcuterie. You must book in advance.
Charles Krug – this is the first operational winery in Napa Valley so a lot of history here. Do not confuse Krug with the champagne maker. Be sure to take a tour of the property. They’ve also recently opened a small cafe in the tasting room.
Brasswood – super fun wine bar, tasting room and restaurant. Open for lunch and dinner Brasswood also has a good happy hour.
Twomey – cozy and friendly tasting room. Twomey makes solid wines from fruit harvested at vineyards in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties.
Romeo Vineyards – the tasting room is on Lincoln Ave. in Calistoga. It’s small, pretty and very friendly. Romeo produces wine mainly from Bordeaux varietals. They also offer dessert wines and a port-style wine that are delicious!
I will be adding to this list and including more detailed information and more wineries. Please check back. Or sign up to receive an email when I do an update.
Read this article in Marin Magazine, 7 Things To Do in Wine Country Now That the Fires are Out!
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