By Doug Fabbioli
When a Crop Creates a Home
The North Coast California wine country had quite the hell storm this year. Nothing is more gut wrenching and fearful as a gust blown firestorm threatening your home, family, lifestyle, health and exit. I have been close to a few incidents of fire over the years, so I have a sense of how these folks felt. After the first horrific night of destruction in Northern Santa Rosa, the threat went down to 9.5 out of 10. As we on the East Coast received many reports of different wineries burning in the region throughout the week, we didn’t think about what was happening at the other wineries.
The timing of these fires added a challenge to many of the wineries in the more remote areas. One issue was the threat of fire itself. The firefighters were moving around to protect buildings as best they could but winds shift, evacuations are enforced and roads get closed. Another challenge was that workers had concerns for their own homes and families that may have been in the path of the ever changing fire. The smoke was a big issue creating hazardous working conditions at the wineries. Fortunately, many of the vineyards had been harvested before the fires started and the wines were safely in tanks or barrels. But power lines were down across much of the area and generators were scarce, especially of the size needed for this time of year. The wines that were in the wineries needed attention to be properly made. Pump-overs of red fermentations, chilling of white fermentations and racking of finished wines are all time sensitive processes that need power to operate. This created some challenges for the winemakers and cellar teams to overcome.
One relatively positive aspect of the fires was that the vineyards in many cases worked like a firebreak protecting wineries and other structures and lands. As the vineyards are irrigated during the growing season, they are the one part of the landscape that is still green and moist. Certainly some vineyards succumbed to the intense heat and drying winds of the firestorm, many vines held the ground by not burning and continuing the nightmare of flames moving forward.
Our winery and others have helped with collecting and donating funds to help with the relief. If you are interested in helping out, the wineries are ready to receive you. Plan your Northern California wine country trip and focus in the areas affected. Last year it was the Lower Lake area of Lake County, northeast of Napa. This year it’s various areas of Napa and Sonoma County. The wines will continue, the reputation for quality will be upheld and this magnificent part of the world will live on, even stronger. I am proud to have spent 10 years in the wine cellars of Sonoma learning the trade, passion and culture of is fine industry. It makes it possible to set an example for folks in our new industry of how to work together to create sustainability. We have created a home here, by knowing what made it home there. Grapes, wine, family, collaboration, trust. Welcome home…