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Eduardo Dingler

This week marks a year anniversary from the wildfires that ransacked, Northern California, including a good amount of the Napa Valley wine country landscape.

As we reflect on the effects that this has had and will have for years to come in our community, it is important to remember that events like this and the 2014 Napa earthquake have brought us closer together and stronger than ever.

At first glance, the most affected areas aside from the wineries are the hotel and restaurant industries that have experienced a major dip in business.

During the past year, I’ve talked to wineries that lost their 2017 crop, as is the case of Parador Cellars. “Our Tempranillo plantings located on Stagecoach were completely cooked by the fire,” proprietors Steve and Faith Ventrello said as I visited the vineyard.

Other vintners suffered from smoke taint losses and opted for skipping the harvest as well. But there were many other winemakers who decided to make the best they could and seem highly optimistic about the outcome.

In some cases, the grapes were treated via experimental techniques like ozone treatment, rinsing and other more unconventional methods. Some wineries simply made wine and left it to destiny to produce the best they could.

During the last months, I tasted through various barrel samples sourced from vineyards throughout Napa and I have to say the wines are tasting great. One of the barrel samples, in particular, was from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes picked just over a week after the fire started, and the fruit was exposed to smoke for a few days. This wine was certainly delicious, and if I had not known about the smoke exposure, I wouldn’t have guessed it.

There was an interesting layer of what I identified as incense or dried black tea that enhanced the wine in a pleasant way.

I am very hopeful for the 2017 vintage to come forward as a highly redeemable year for Napa Valley producers and not be dubbed for this unfortunate events.

There are plenty of great examples of wines produced from previous fire vintages as is the case of Anderson Valley and even Australia that give hope to this brave producer putting all eggs on the basket to craft incredible wines.

On the hospitality side, we have to remind the world that Napa is open for business without missing a beat. Speculation and depiction from national and international media sources do not portray a pretty landscape, but it is our job to invite more people to visit wine country.

In the case of the 2014 Napa earthquake, I recall a couple months after we visited a San Francisco restaurant, while conversing with the sommelier and mentioning we lived in Napa, his response was “How are you managing to live in those conditions?” We explained we were open for business almost immediately after. Instances like this remind us that the perception and reality are not always the same.

During my last visit to Tokyo a few weeks ago, I got asked a couple times about the fires and how soon was Napa Valley going to take to recover, a true example how even the international media had an effect on people who would plan a visit otherwise.

We, all as a whole, need to remind the world via social media or in person that our valley is more beautiful than ever and ready to welcome all visitors.

All in all, this week is a clear reminder that our community has come a long way from last year’s events and looking after our neighbors and becoming ambassadors to our world-renowned destination.

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Eduardo can be reached at eduardo@sakedrinker.com.

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