Watching California Wine Country go up in flames has been an enormous gut-punch. Thousands of homes have been lost. Hundreds of people have been displaced. As of this writing, the flames aren’t done yet.
There is hope amidst the chaos. GoFundMe has a list of accounts for families and organizations affected by the disaster. You can also send direct donations to The Red Cross and the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund. It’s needed and appreciated.
The flames eventually will stop. The history of wild fires informs us as such. However, they threaten to leave Napa Valley in a bad way long after they’re done raging. if you enjoy wine – and if you’ve been visiting this fledgling dog and pony show, you probably do – it’s important to realize that Napa is still going to be hurting in the fire’s aftermath. What are we to do then?
This question initially didn’t cross my mind. I was too busy watching Atlas Peak and Mount Veeder burn and wondering if my friends and colleagues in the industry were in trouble. Then I received an e-mail from one of my favorite wineries, letting their fans know they were fine. The message shook loose the dormant question from my brain by providing its appropriate answer.
“Come to visit us, our neighbors, our valley.”
This is what needs to be done in the next several months. Napa thrives on tourism, and they’re going to need it more than ever once the fires are gone. Charred hillsides and other horrific remnants of this week will still be present, but so will the community’s bevy of passionate winemakers, standing at the intersection of art and science like they do every year, making bottle after phenomenal bottle. The wines they make are glimpse into their spirit.
It’s a spirit that remains resilient despite the flame’s encircling chaos and choking air quality. The fires hit in the middle of harvest season; winemakers and their crews are still working as normally as possible, gathering pluck-worthy fruit from whatever vines they can access. Their resolve to keep their livelihood going is a silver lining, albeit one obscured with smoke and ash. These are the people you support when you visit Napa, so please don’t let the eventual aftereffects of this week’s fires discourage you from another trip. Go up there, buy some bottles, and help them recover. If you can swing it, splurge and nab a bottle from 2012’s epic vintage. You better believe they’ll be grateful you came.
If you can’t book a trip, do the next best thing and support the wineries from afar. Join a wine club or two. Go to your local neighborhood wine shop and mix ‘n’ match a half-case. Every dollar spent helps, regardless of where the transaction takes place.
Napa needs your help right now, and they’re going to need your help in the future. Don’t let them down.