I’ll never forget the first time I went to Sonoma after I moved from San Francisco to Rutherford, a bucolic hamlet in Napa Valley, in 2015. At Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville to attend the opening night of the ninth annual Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, another guest asked me where I lived. I replied, “Napa.” He quipped, “Isn’t that an auto parts store?”
While folks in Sonoma Valley may joke about Napa Valley, both regions get along as well as wine and cheese. One area may be perceived as being ritzier and more sophisticated than the other, which is the birthplace of California wine (I don’t need to tell you which is which), but together the two valleys make up the two best-known components of California’s Wine Country. Although separated by a mountain range, they are intertwined in the eyes of many. When one hurts, so does the other. That was most evident during the Kincade Fire, which started northeast of Gey-serville on October 23, 2019, and burned more than 77,000 acres, largely beyond where most visitors go, before it was contained on November 6.
In November, the Napa County Farm Bureau hosted a benefit drive to support the Sonoma County fire victims. Napa County residents brought items to donate and made financial donations to Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s Kincade Fire Donation Fund to help farmers, ranchers, and livestock displaced by the Kincade Fire.
While the wildfire may not have spread to Napa Valley, thanks to the brave firefighters who risked their lives to ensure this, Napa Valley was still greatly affected. Many Napa Valley businesses have employees who live in Sonoma and were forced to evacuate their homes. In all, 374 structures, includ-ing 174 homes, were destroyed and 60 were damaged. Thankfully, there were no fatali-ties. It is during times like the Kincade Fire when the two valleys come together: neighbors helping neighbors.
In November, the Napa County Farm Bureau hosted a benefit drive to support the Sonoma County fire victims. Napa County residents brought items to donate and made financial donations to Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s Kincade Fire Donation Fund to help farmers, ranchers, and livestock displaced by the Kincade Fire. Napa Valley businesses, Gamble Family Vineyards, Schramsberg and Mad Fritz Brewery, donated wine and beer. In December, Alpha Omega winery in Rutherford held its third annual Holiday Giving Celebration, a heartwarming event where Wine Club members brought hundreds of unwrapped toys for the winery to donate to children affected by the Kincade Fire via Nor Cal Emergency Response Team.
It wasn’t just people in Napa Valley helping Sonoma. On October 26, I attended the inaugural Pinots & Plaid, a fabulous wine tasting event of 25 premiere Northern California pinot noirs at San Francisco’s Hibernia Bank Building put on by Emily Martin. The Kincade Fire impacted several of the participating wineries, and their employees had to evacuate. I admired Emily, aka the Jetsetting Fashionista, for making a beeline to Sonoma after her event concluded to volunteer with others alongside Chef Tyler Florence and other celebrity chefs. Save the date of Saturday, October 24, 2020, for her next Pinots & Plaid.
For now, I encourage you to visit Sonoma and Napa Valleys this winter to support local businesses and families still feeling the effects of the extensive media coverage of “California Wine Country on fire.” Trust me when I write that both regions remain stunningly beautiful. Only two Sonoma winery tasting rooms reported damage from the Kincade Fire. You can still expect a world-class welcome and enjoy unforgettable experiences, whether you are tasting wine or relaxing at one of Sonoma County’s more than 40 spas and wellness centers.
Come take advantage of Napa Valley’s cabernet season, the perfect time for a cozy getaway and opportunity to spend an abundance of time with wine educators. Enjoy a wine tasting in front of a firepit and leisurely meals at fine dining restaurants without having to book far in advance for a prime-time reservation. Soon the fields will burst with mustard flowers. Pull over on the side of a road, step onto the spectacular yellow carpet, and pose for an Instagram-worthy photo. Help spread the word by using #CaliforniaNow in your social media posts. I hope to see you soon!