The numerous wildfires ravaging California have destroyed businesses, property, and more than 1,500 homes. The wildfires began Sunday and quickly moved across nine counties at speeds greater than 50 miles per hour, killing at least 21 people and displacing thousands. The Northern California wildfires have also burned more than 73,000 acres in Sonoma and Napa counties, the epicenter of the state’s $58.0-billion wine industry.
There are currently more than 100,000 acres of wine grapes planted in Sonoma and Napa counties. The area is home to more than 650 wineries, which account for 13% of Californian wines. While the state wine industry is worth $58.0 billion, the region’s tourism industry generates nearly $115.0 billion in annual economic activity.
Even after the wildfires are contained, the economic effects will be felt for years to come. California is responsible for 85% of all U.S. wine and has a 60% share of the U.S. market by volume; that means three of every five bottles of wine sold in the country originates from California. Not surprisingly, it is also one of the most popular destinations for tourists, with close to 24 million people visiting California’s wine region annually.
Even though California’s wine industry is relatively young, it is the world’s fourth-largest producer of wine after France, Italy, and Spain. Last year, California wines accounted for 90% of all U.S. wine exports, with 46 million cases sent to 138 countries.
Northern California Wildfires Hit Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino Vineyards
While around 90% of the grapes have already been picked for this year’s harvest, the export numbers will surely be small in the coming years. That’s because a large number of vineyards have either been rent asunder, had their vines experience significant smoke damage, and/or seen their properties and infrastructure decimated.
One varietal that has been seriously impacted by the Northern California wildfires is Cabernet Sauvignon; all of those grapes were still on the vine. The majority of grapes grown in California come from the San Joaquin Valley, where Cabernet Sauvignon grapes sell for around $400.00 a ton. In Napa Valley, the same grapes sell closer to $7,000 a ton and for as much as $50,000 a ton.
The wildfires continue to devastate the state’s wine region, with Mendocino, Napa, and Sonoma suffering the biggest losses. In Napa Valley alone, at least five wineries have suffered total or significant losses, with 11 reporting damage to their winery, vineyards, and outbuildings. About a dozen Napa Valley vintners in the most vulnerable areas have yet to report on damage.
If it’s “only” smoke damage, it means the vineyards will be out of commission for one season. If it’s fire damage, it will be three or four seasons.
Even unburned grapes in wineries not directly impacted by the wildfires will be affected. This is due to what the industry calls “smoke taint.” When smoke is absorbed into the plant and concentrates in the grapes, it changes the flavor and aroma.
Below is a list of wineries that sustained damage from the Northern California wildfires.
Napa County Wineries
Segassia Vineyard – According to the family-owned Mt. Veeder winery, “what has not been destroyed will be lost.”
Signorello Vineyard –The winery at Signorello Vineyard was totally destroyed by the fire, but the fate of the vineyard is still up in the air.
Stags’ Leap Winery – Fires licked at the winery, but the extent of the damage is not yet known.
White Rock Vineyards – Founded in 1870, White Rock is one of the oldest vineyards in Napa Valley. The winery was destroyed, but the state of the vineyard is not yet known.
William Hill Estate Winery – The entrance sign and surrounding area was burned, but damage to the actual winery is said to be mostly cosmetic, with minimal vineyard damage.
Sonoma County Wineries
Paradise Ridge Winery – According to the winery’s Facebook page, Paradise Ridge has been destroyed. The winery vows to rebuild.
Nicholson Ranch – According to Nicholson Ranch, its wine is secure in its cellars, but there is some damage to fix.
Mayo Family Wineries – Some infrastructure was destroyed, but the winery itself has been spared.
Mendochino County Wineries
Frey Vineyards Winery – America’s first organic and biodynamic winery was destroyed.
Oster Wine Cellars – A family-owned winery that specializes in handcrafted, limited production wines, Oster Wine Cellars was destroyed.
Golden Vineyards – Another small family-owned winery was also destroyed.
California Wildfires Cause Severe Damage to Life, Property, and Businesses
Wildfires sweeping through Northern California are spread over a 200-mile area north of San Francisco, from Napa in the south to Redding in the North. The fires have killed at least 17 and forced tens of thousands to evacuate, decimated the area’s thriving tourism industry, and destroyed many businesses.
In fact, the economic impact is expected to be significant when you factor in lost business at the local wineries, restaurants, and hotels and job losses. In Napa Valley, the wine industry supports 46,000 jobs. In Mendocino and neighboring Sonoma, wine tourism accounts for around 100,000 jobs.
At last count, the blaze has destroyed more than 2,000 homes and businesses. One of the hardest hit areas was Santa Rosa, a city of about 175,000 just one hour north of San Francisco. The fire burned more than 25,000 acres, destroying a mobile home park and the 250-room Hilton Hotel. Other Santa Rosa businesses hit include the Fountaingrove Inn, Cricklewood steakhouse, and Willi’s Wine Bar.
The damage will run into the billions and will take California’s famous wine industry and surrounding infrastructure years to rebuild.
“Statistics,” California Wines, last accessed October 12, 2017.
“Napa Wildfires Media Update,” Napa Valley Vintners, October 12, 2017.
“Sonoma and Napa Wineries Damaged by California Wildfires: Updated List,” Fortune, October 12, 2017.
“Napa wine industry assesses damage to wineries and grape crop,” Napa Valley Register, October 11, 2017.
“Paradise Ridge Winery,” Facebook, last accessed October 12, 2017.
“Nicholas Ranch Winery,” Facebook, last accessed October 12, 2017.