Fire: A beautiful conundrum capable of creation and destruction.
Before readers start wondering how far off the rocker I am (and why on earth I decided to lead off this entry with something that harkens to one of Peter Ackroyd’s old documentaries), let me backtrack.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to take a much-needed vacation that included a side trip to his sister’s part of the world in San Francisco.
Given the fact that it would mean a plane ride over twelve hours long, we decided to make the best out of it and, in the interest of furthering my wine education through “field trips” (I love my job), visit wineries in Napa and Sonoma.
This became an even more serious endeavour when I got invited to do a talk about the trip on Facebook Live (what a tease, I know, but details to follow) when I got back.
So, after much persuading (okay, so one of our favourite partners, Happy Living Philippines, was actually all too keen on granting us access to the wineries they work with, so it wasn’t THAT much of a wrestle), we were all set: schedules, access, tickets, Airbnb accommodations, and car rentals at the ready.
And then it happened: The great wildfires of California.
Let me get one thing straight: This is not in any way, shape, or form a way for me to rant about the failure of being able to gain access to some of the best wineries North America has to offer. On the contrary, this is my attempt to put into focus the reality of the devastation that happened.
First, a few facts: Wildfires, by definition, are fires that occur in areas of lush vegetation (i.e., away from cities and in the countryside). There are many possible causes (man-made or otherwise), but at the end of the day, large scale ones are double D’s: destructive and devastating.
This was the case with the SERIES (there were 10!) of fires that started early October 2017 (and ended during the last week of the month) in California. It was so catastrophic that it burned over 210,000 acres of land, caused 90,000 people to evacuate from their homes, and sadly, killed at least 43 people. The air quality was so terrible and widespread, my sister-in-law complained of smoke coming down to San Francisco. 8,900 structures were destroyed, including 7 (out of 500) wineries in Napa and Sonoma.
Napa and Sonoma (as I’ve written about in previous posts) are icons of North American winemaking, responsible for a huge chunk of wine production (and corresponding accolades) for the country. Having said that, one could only imagine the impact of the fires on the US wine industry. As winegrowing tends to be at least a five-year endeavour from vine to bottle and is heavily reliant on environmental conditions, we can only brace ourselves for the true outcome.
As I’ve said during the beginning of this entry, however… Fire can also create. I think that it created awareness on the strong spirit and inspirational sense of community (we were monitoring the news while we were in the US: The response of their local government, rescuers, firefighters, and community was amazing and inspirational) of the people of Northern California.
Presently (and something I would like to emphasise), it’s business as usual in Napa and Sonoma. Yes, there are structures that are being rebuilt, but the skies are blue, the tasting rooms are empty… They are waiting and eager for people to come over and sample some of their finest wines.
I have a theory that vines are like people: The more adversity it faced to come into being, the better the character. With that in mind, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, I think we can honestly look forward to beautiful wines from the esteemed winemakers of the region.
Moving forward in our little world here at 2 Shots and a Pint, we will take a little detour on American wine tourism, with a focus on wineries from the East Coast, as well as an exploration of Santa Maria in succeeding entries.
Wine strong, California. Cheers!