With wildfires, keep Sonoma and Napa in your glass and in your prayers

Some people will certainly say, “Well, it’s only just wine.” But the destruction to wineries in California's wine country means much more than that.

WASHINGTON — Fires in the Sonoma and Napa valleys have devastated thousands of lives and have caused financial loss in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

But beyond the fiscal and physical wreckage, there is the overwhelming sense of anguish as generations of hard work and tradition literally went up in smoke.

Many of my friends have lost their homes and their livelihoods. And while they are safe and will eventually rebuild, their current situation is calamitous. Most wineries affected by the fires had already harvested their grapes, so the product of their efforts was wiped out when their facilities were burned to the ground. In some cases, multiple vintages of wine have been lost.

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Some people will certainly say, “Well, it’s only just wine.” But it is much more than that.

It is the obliteration of dreams. It is the bitter result of hard work and investment. It is the loss of jobs for tens of thousands of workers, whose living depends upon the industry. From farmers to wine shops, hotels and restaurants, schools and hospitals, and everything in the broad spectrum between, the effects of this tragedy will be felt for a long, long time to come.

The economic impact alone is staggering. It is estimated that Sonoma and Napa counties generate over $26 billion a year locally from the wine industry.

But there are also reasons to be hopeful, and to appreciate a community residents who have come together to help one another in a time of crisis.

Stories of sold-out hotels setting up beds in their lobbies to accommodate everyone who needed a safe place to rest, restaurants turning into makeshift mess halls for first responders, caravans of ordinary citizens rescuing people, livestock and pets. Yes, it may only be wine, but it represents so much more on so many levels.

Overwhelmed? Certainly. Defeated? Not by a long shot.

And now we have an opportunity to support a community that could certainly use a lot of help and a few good prayers. So this week’s Wine of the Week column will feature wines from a few of the damaged wineries in Napa and Sonoma.

Raise your glass to resilience and renewal for everyone affected by these fires in wine country — because it’s about more than just wine.

One of the most popular locations for weddings in the Sonoma valley, the Paradise Ridge Winery, has been destroyed on the very day it was slated to receive an award for best place to get married in the valley. In addition to the structural damage, the winery also lost their entire 2017 vintage. But their wonderfully delicious 2015 Paradise Ridge Winery Estate Sauvignon Blanc “Grandview Vineyard” lives on. This bright white wine is crisp and fresh, with loads of citrus flavors on the front of the palate followed by waves of juicy guava, kiwi and mango fruit on the back of the tongue. Notes of passion fruit and lime are prominent on the refreshing finish. $28

According to news reports, White Rock Vineyards — one of Napa’s oldest wineries, first established in 1870 — has suffered significant damage and is probably lost. They are known for their elegant estate-grown cabernet sauvignon as well as to their commitment to sustainable farming, never using pesticides or herbicides. Their 2013 White Rock Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon possesses a nose of dark fruit and cedar. The mouth feel is smooth and supple, with focused flavors of dark cherry, black raspberry and blueberry compote. The finish is soft and elegant, thanks to silky tannins. $60

Signorello Estate, a family-owned winery on Napa’s Silverado Trail, was destroyed in the Atlas Peak Fire. Employees at the winery were trying to fight the fire but retreated when it overran the building. But where there is tragedy, there is hope, so it is only fitting to splurge on a bottle of 2015 Signorello “Hope’s Cuvee” Chardonnay from Napa Valley. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate raves about the wine, giving it score of 98 points and stating, “The best chardonnay I have ever tasted from Ray Signorello … with its tiny yields, old vines and unfiltered style of keeping the wine nine months in barrel … this wine is absolutely spectacular. The wine has a Montrachet-like richness, with profound concentration from the tiny yields, loads of caramelized citrus, honeysuckle, white peach, melons and a touch of brioche. It is full-bodied, but great acid(ity), purity and length make for an incredible wine from this old vineyard’s clay and loamy soils.” $80

Long-Term Help

In addition, established community foundations in each of the counties impacted by the Northern California wildfires have created relief funds to provide aid to local fire victims. The group of regional leaders organizing the wine industry support effort encourages those who cannot provide ground support to make a donation in any amount to the following funds:

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