Later that morning at Jordan Winery, a family wine estate established by Tom and Sally Jordan and set on 1,200 acres of hilltop vineyards, I meet not only Mattson, but also second-generation vintner John Jordan, who's now CEO of the winery and who's also a philanthropist, pilot and Fox News contributor. He had popped over to speak to Mattson but ended up staying a few minutes to talk.
"We are open for business, and it's business as usual," Jordan says as I listen and take a sip of one of the best chardonnays I have ever sampled. "Most of Sonoma County is open for business. You have to understand that 99.9 percent of all visitor experiences are open. You hear burn, burn, burn, but it's not true."
The more my friend and I drive through Sonoma, the more we find that Jordan is absolutely correct. That afternoon, we stop in at the Healdsburg Hotel near Healdsburg Plaza for a glass of wine in the lobby bar before heading over to Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen for dinner. There, we meet and talk to Circe Sher, who we soon learn is president and co-founder of Piazza Hospitality, the company that owns the hotel and restaurant, and Paige Wilcox, a Georgia transplant who manages marketing for the company.
"We had a lot of smoke for a couple of days, and everyone watched the ridges, but the fire didn't get here," says Wilcox. "But we did get a lot of evacuees, as well as helicopter pilots, fire and rescue, and first responders. It was amazing how the community came together during the fire."
After a wave of cancellations from guests who, like many others, were under the wronger-than-wrong impression that Sonoma has slammed shut to visitors, they welcome tourists to come see for themselves.
"This is a tourism town," says Wilcox, "and we need the tourism."
While it will take years to rebuild after the fires, spring will bring green grass to the once-charred hills and the vines will awaken from their winter slumber. The wine is flowing again, not in boiling rivers, but in glasses raised to the future of Healdsburg, Sonoma County and the entire wine-growing region.
Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau at www.healdsburg.com or call 707-433-6935.
Where to Stay
Hotel Les Mars -- 27 North St., Healdsburg www.hotellesmars.com 707-433-4211. Champagne is standard upon arrival at this 16-room Old World luxurious French-style four-star Relais and Chateaux inn. Breakfast and wine hour are included. Ask for a room with a fireplace.
Honor Mansion -- 891 Grove St., Healdsburg www.honormansion.com 707-433-4277. With only 13 rooms, the inn is one of Healdsburg's most romantic, cozy and luxurious. Amenities include full breakfast, indoor and outdoor spa services, and wine tasting.
Grape Leaf Inn -- 539 Johnson St., Healdsburg www.grapeleafinn.com 707-433-8140. An informal yet luxurious wine country inn with a wonderful wraparound porch that's touted as one of the best-kept secrets in wine country. Rates include a full four-course gourmet breakfast and a wine hour.
Hotel Healdsburg -- 25 Matheson St., Healdsburg www.hotelhealdsburg.com 707-431-2800. A simple yet elegant 56-room hotel overlooking Healdsburg Plaza that includes a spa with farm-to-spa products, the renowned Dry Creek Kitchen, and the Spirit Bar.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.