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Napa Valley Reboot: After the fires

Christopher Reynolds, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Travel News

Here's a closer look at what a Napa/Sonoma traveler can expect:

NAPA COUNTY

Although the fires began northwest of Calistoga on Oct. 8, the flames never reached Napa Valley's main tourist corridor, which includes downtown Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford and St. Helena. Nor did the fire reach Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga's main drag.

As you drive among those towns along California 29 or ride the Napa Valley Wine Train (which parallels the highway between Napa and St. Helena), the valley seems open for business as usual, including the new Archer Hotel in downtown Napa.

"So far, you can't tell there was a fire," said visitor Larry Devich of Sacramento, about an hour into our ride on the wine train. But we had walked through an empty car on the way to our seats, and waitress Cathy Dominguez had confided that "we're only using half of the train right now."

Scott Goldie, the wine train's co-chief executive, told me later, "We were probably off by 80 percent" in early November. But by early January, Goldie said, the shortfall was about 30 percent.

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Goldie, who lost his Atlas Peak home in the fires, has decided to bet on a big comeback. Beginning in April, he said, the train is adding cars and offering more excursions than it did last year.

I also browsed Napa's Oxbow Public Market, walked along the Napa River and spent a night at the Indian Springs resort in Calistoga. No visible trouble, but Indian Springs general manager Tim McGregor mentioned he had lost his Santa Rosa home in the fires.

In all, Napa County officials said, the major fires here (Atlas, Nuns and Tubbs) killed seven people and burned 69,979 acres. Yet county officials estimate that just 110 acres of vineyards burned. In Napa County, 1,051 structures were destroyed, including 611 residential units.

Just north of Calistoga, Robert Louis Stevenson State Park's Mount St. Helena Trail is still closed, but its Table Rock Trail, Palisades Trail and Historic Oat Hill Mine Road are open.

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