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The Wine Country Fires

Robert Whitley on

There has been talk of damage to the vineyards, which can be a bit overwrought. The vineyards acted as a natural firebreak. Some of the rows of vines along the edges were singed, but there is little evidence thus far that entire vineyards were lost.

Sonoma by far took the biggest hit to life and property. The Napa Valley, particularly the vineyards and wineries on the valley floor, escaped relatively unscathed. Most of the damage there was along the Silverado Trail and around Atlas Peak, including the total destruction of the Signorello Winery. Mendocino County and Lake County to the north took a hit with 32,000 acres burned and one winery lost.

Yet through it all, the one message that came through loud and clear was that the wine country would be open for business again very soon. The E. & J. Gallo Winery has pledged $1 million for fire relief, and wineries from Paso Robles to Temecula have pledged a share of upcoming sales to the restoration effort.

It is a reassuring message for the thousands of wine country residents whose livelihood depends on a thriving wine industry. That includes those indirectly involved with the wine business, such as restaurant and hotel workers who depend upon the steady flow of tourists.

After more than three decades of life in Southern California, I am well-acquainted with wildfires. Yet I am always amazed at how quickly the earth heals, new growth sprouts up and, before I know it, all signs of a devastating fire are gone.

So, too, will America's most hallowed wine country recover from the horrors of vintage 2017.


Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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