7 Things to Do in Wine Country Once the Fires Are Out
Ways to show up and support Napa and Sonoma's workers and businesses.
“We don’t like to post much about the fires, because we watched what it did to our little town and our small businesses,” read a message on the Facebook page of Geyserville’s Locals Tasting Room a few days after the Kincade Fire broke out northeast of town. The author added that following the 2017 wildfires “people stopped coming out of fear.” As occurred two years ago, the social media pages of wineries, restaurants, and other businesses overflowed last month with expressions of concern and inquiries about what commenters could do to help. Once the fire has been contained and evacuees return home the answer, as the Locals post suggests, is simple: show up.
Below are seven ways to support Wine Country workers and businesses, many of the latter family-owned, and have a great time doing so. As of early November, some were still closed, so make sure the coast (and the air) is clear before venturing forth. Tastings at some wineries are by appointment only; book ahead if necessary.
1. Show Geyserville Some Love
Show Geyserville’s residents some love: start with a tasting—always free—at Locals, which represents nine well-selected small wineries, or visit one of downtown’s other wine spaces. Have lunch at Diavola Pizzeria or Catelli’s before heading into the Alexander Valley countryside to Robert Young, Zialena, or (when it reopens) Garden Creek. Stay overnight at the Geyserville Inn, whose 41 stylish rooms were fully renovated earlier this year.
2. Stroll a Garden or Two
Tap into nature’s quiet beauty strolling the perfectly coiffed gardens at Ferrari-Carano (Healdsburg) or the rustic Quarryhill Botanical Gardens (Glen Ellen). The Sunset Gardens and art-installation gardens at Cornerstone Sonoma are (in light traffic) less than a half-hour’s drive from Central Marin. Learn about Biodynamic farming while taking in the gardens of Benziger (Glen Ellen) or Quivira (Healdsburg). For a more dynamic introduction to Biodynamics, visit Deloach’s outdoor Theater of Nature (Santa Rosa) or the demo farm’s original Napa Valley iteration at sister property Raymond (St. Helena). Beringer, also in St. Helena, has grand landscaping, as does Calistoga’s Chateau Montelena.
3. Celebrate Wine Country Resilience
From earthquakes and fires to Prohibition and two bouts of phylloxera (a vine-destroying pest), Napa and Sonoma have endured numerous catastrophes since Buena Vista Winery (Sonoma) ushered in modern California winemaking in 1857. Buena Vista and the Napa Valley’s Charles Krug (1861), Beringer (1876), and Inglenook (1879) have survived them all. Celebrate the Wine Country’s history of resilience at one of these 19th-century establishments or later arrivals such as Seghesio (1902), Louis M. Martini (1933), and Trefethen Family Vineyards (1968). Trefethen’s three-story wood-framed tasting space, erected in 1886 as the Eshcol winery and a major casualty of Napa’s 2014 earthquake, took nearly three years to restore.
4. Patronize Restaurants Whose Teams Pitched In
A New York Times restaurant critic recently waxed blasé about the Wine Country’s haute-dining scene, but as in 2017 the reviews from first responders and displaced residents fed gourmet disaster meals by celebrity and other chefs were nothing short of ecstatic last month. Patronize the restaurants whose teams pitched in, among them Catelli’s, Franchetti’s Wood Fire Kitchen (Santa Rosa), SingleThread Farms and Valette (Healdsburg), and Acacia House (St. Helena).
5. Support Local Artists and Artisans
With hundreds of artworks and products by North Bay artists and craftspeople, Made Local Marketplace (Santa Rosa) is a one-stop shop for supporting area creative types. The two owners of JaMJAr (Healdsburg and Guerneville) create some of the paintings, jewelry, and other items sold in their shops, which also carry vintage furniture and bric-a-brac. Some of the household items and soaps and lotions sold at Maker’s Market and Feast it Forward, both in downtown Napa, are produced in the Wine Country.
6. Check Out New Tasting Rooms
Several articles of late have pronounced the tasting room dead because millennials want to interact with brands differently than did generations past, but that hasn’t put a damper on construction: October alone saw spanking new spaces debut at Anaba (Sonoma), Bouchaine (Napa), and Cakebread (Rutherford). Check out one or more of these or another relative newbie, Flowers (Healdsburg), whose House of Flowers opened this summer.
7. Sleep Tight Near the Vines
Wine education is the emphasis at ZO Wines of Dry Creek Valley, where guests spending the night at the winery’s renovated 1912 Craftsman farmhouse sleep tight near Zinfandel vines. All farm stays include a tasting (ZO is known for Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah) and a wine-sensory workshop. The next day you can explore the Dry Creek appellation. Kokomo, Passalacqua, and Zichichi are three fun stops.
Daniel Mangin is the author of Fodor’s Napa and Sonoma and the coauthor of The California Directory of Fine Wineries.