SOBER REALITY

California wildfires are ripping through Napa Valley—home to a $50-billion wine industry

Napa Valley, the heart of American wine country, is burning.

About 15 large fires and other smaller blazes are tearing through tens of thousands of acres around Napa Valley, including in Sonoma County, in the recent spate of wildfires that have killed at least 10 people in northern California. It’s still too early to say just how many vineyards have been affected, as the more than 475 wineries in the region remain on high alert. A handful of vintners and local reporters have reported significant damage, some recounting harrowing stories of being pelted by smoke and embers as flames raced across the land.

“It looks like a bombing run,” vintner Joe Nielsen told local media, describing the scene surrounding Donelan Family Wines, which was spared.

The Napa Valley wine industry and related businesses contribute more than $13 billion to the local economy (pdf) and more than $50 billion to the overall US economy, according to the Napa Valley Vintners association. More than 46,000 jobs in the valley are tethered to the wine industry.

More than 90% of grapes in the region have already been harvested this year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Northern California wine country is particularly noteworthy because of its diverse soils and dry, Mediterranean climate. It’s an ideal climate for growing more than 34 varieties of grapes—23% of which are white and 77% red.

In some cases, vintners are struggling with power outages and poor cellular service. Even still, several are posting updates to social media as they weather through the situation.

“All in all, the winery is a tad isolated and we are a bit apprehensive, but at least for the moment everything is functioning and we’re working in the cellar,” posted Robert Keenan Winery. “Our heart goes out to our friends and neighbors as we come together in solidarity through this difficult time.”


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