After the Fires, How Can We Help Northern California’s Wine Country Communities?

In just the last week, news outlets across the country, including the New York Times, have reported that the wineries, restaurants and hotels in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino are open and back in business following the devastating wildfires that recently ripped through the region.

We’ve also heard from the well-known wine blogger Alder Yarrow on Vinography and Bloomberg’s wine writer Elin McCoy that the best ways to support the Northern California wine regions are to buy California wines and to visit Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino.

This was echoed by Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers, on SF Gate. As she noted, “More than ever, we need folks to come and support tourism here. This week, everyone is sending money to the Red Cross and emergency services. Next week, if you want to help, buy our wine.”

And choosing to buy California wine will certainly help, but that alone in not enough. As noted on SF Gate, one in four jobs in Napa and Sonoma are connected to wine and tourism. The restaurants and hotels (and the cooks, servers, dishwashers, housekeepers and front desk staff that work at them) also need support. Not only that, but most small- to mid-sized wineries don’t have much wine in distribution, and they depend on direct to consumer sales.

October and early November are typically among the region’s busiest times of year for tourism, with the buzz and excitement of harvest and usually ideal weather. At least anecdotally, the tourists haven’t come back yet. Just yesterday, someone with a close read on the Napa wine industry told me, “It’s surreal, this is normally the most vibrant time of the year for tourism and no one is here.”

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So, what can we as Northern Californians do to help our regional wine communities as they continue to struggle with the aftermath of the fires? Yes, buy California wine, but more significantly plan a trip to the wine country, if not this weekend, then soon. Go to your favorite winery, or try a few new ones. Consider staying the night. Buy sandwiches at a local shop for a picnic, and dine at one of the many renowned restaurants for dinner. But most importantly, just visit.

Visitor resources:

Napa – www.visitnapavalley.com

Sonoma – www.sonomacounty.com

Mendocino – www.visitmendocino.com

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