The devastation in Northern California wine country is unprecedented. The images – particularly of neighborhoods in Santa Rosa, my hometown, are horrifying. But it doesn’t matter where you live, truthfully. Folks around the world watched the scenes play out in disbelief. I was in Ecuador when I received a text from my neighbor asking if I was going to evacuate. That’s how I found out about the wildfires ravaging Napa and Sonoma. Even there, folks knew what was going on in my hometown.
Lives were lost. Homes were wiped out with terrifying speed.
Residents are beginning a recovery process that will take years.
That said, it’s essential for Bay Area neighbors, and anyone thinking about a visit, to understand Wine Country is open for business. It’s ready for visitors.
There are more than 800 wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties, less than 10 were destroyed or damaged heavily. But there seems to be a false impression that Wine Country was destroyed. For the folks that call it home, yes, things have changed, dramatically in some cases, but the impact on the average visitor is limited. According to Sonoma County Tourism more than 90 percent of Sonoma County is not affected by the Northern California fires.
So, now is a great time to remind yourself about all the great things in the Bay Area’s backyard, like Jack London State Historic Park. Admission to the park is free through the end of the year. The weekly Saturday morning guided hikes are also free through the end of December.
Sonoma County’s Armstrong Woods is amazing, just as it’s always been.
More than 800 acres strong, the reserve is home to a grove of coast redwoods, awe-inspiring giants. The oldest tree, at an approximate age of 1400 years old, is also more than 300 feet tall. Go for a hike, then wander along the main drag in Guerneville. Get something to eat, start your holiday shopping. It all adds up.
As soon as it was safe, businesses throughout wine country were focused on getting back to business as normal. They had to be. With grand estates and polished tasting rooms, it can be easy to forget how many businesses in both Napa and Sonoma County are small businesses.
Calistoga’s Lincoln Avenue is a good example, lined with small shops and restaurants. It all trickles down, from servers, to cooks, and hotel staff. They’re all residents that can’t afford to lose their livelyhood. Visitors that make the trip now are shaping the next chapter of Wine Country history.
Those hard to get reservations, might now be so tough to get for awhile. Those posh hotels rooms are more plentiful, and in some cases on sale. Take advantage, and feel good about it. And if you’re the type that needs an excuse to indulge a little, the list of hotels and businesses donating proceeds to fire recovery funds is long. So, there’s added incentive to getaway and helps others in the process.
Fun extras are popping up the calendar too. The folks behind BottleRock have announced a benefit concert called “For the Love of Napa”, featuring Michael Franti, on Saturday, Nov. 18th at Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville.
“For the Love of Sonoma,” kicks off the same evening at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center featuring Bay Area legends Counting Crows.
Train will perform December 1st at the JaM Cellars Ballroom at the Napa Valley Opera House in downtown Napa.
Get your tickets and enjoy, knowing you’re playing a role in Wine Country’s recovery.