• Alexander Smith

The fire that almost wiped out Napa

2020 has been a crazy year for many reasons, but for the folks out in Napa, 2020 will be remembered as the year which nearly wiped them out.

Fires have become more common in Napa in recent years, and despite efforts to better control wild fires, the Glass Fire of 2020 consumed more than 70,000 acres and badly damaged or destroyed 31 wineries across the valley. The most impacted regions were Spring Mountain and Calistoga with the wineries of Cain, Castello di Amorosa, Davies Estates, Hourglass Winery, Merus, Newton and Stirling Vineyards either badly damaged or completely destroyed. The loss of these vineyards is heartbreaking, I know most of these wineries and have tasted their wines on numerous occasions, this is a huge lost, I hope these guys will come back even stronger. Actually, I know they will.

The Napa region has been hit with two fires this year, and the latest fire, named the Glass Fire which started on the 27th September is now at 90% contained, yet came extremely close to wiping out the town of St. Helena. I was told by more than one owner that they thought that was it. The impact of these fires do not just impact the growing season but could potentially destroy the vines; which in turn would take many years to recover. This means no income for 3-5 years.

Wineries, communities have been brought together closer than ever before. I have written before that Napa is one of the closest wine communities I know of, I believe after this they will be even closer. Those who have have had their livelihoods destroyed have vowed to build backup better than ever, and with the community support I know they will. So how can you help? In three simple ways

1) Donate to the Napa Valley Community foundation which provides assistance to those who have lost and are in desperate need of support: https://www.napavalleycf.org/

2) Buy Napa wines, especially those whose wineries have been either partially or completely destroyed by this catastrophic fire.

3) My title is 'The fire that almost wiped out Napa' and if it was not for the amazing firefighters then this might have been the case. Ehren Jordan(Owner of Failla) says firefighter were on his crushpad battling the flames. These guys saved Napa, and so those who want can donate to the amazing California Fire Foundation.

With the fires now at 90% contained, what will happen to the 2020 vintage? Philippe Melka has been quoted as saying a 2020 vintage will not happen. I respect Philippe a lot, however I think he has jumped a little too quickly. He consults for multiple wineries in Napa, however I have spoken to Dalla Valle, Bevan Cellars, Groth and Spottswoode who have all confirmed they are not writing off 2020 quite yet. You see, the fires started on the 27th September and do those who harvested prior to the fires will be fine, even those who harvested after 'might' be ok. Smoke taint will be blamed for wines not being produced in 2020, however smoke taint is not very well understood and is actually due to the proximity of the fires and the intensity of the smoke on the grapes, hence if the grapes see a little smoke it might not find it's way into the wine. So let's wait until Spring before we draw any final conclusions. After speaking with the above wineries my gut tells me there will be a 2020 vintage, and I am hearing it might be similar to 2013, so any wine which will be produced will be of a very high quality.

These fires are becoming more and more frequent; and even though I try to stay politically neutral on Points on Wine, I cannot help but believe a lot of these fires are due to global warming. I will not convince anyone who is not being environmentally aware to start through this post, however if you are already, I thank you. Let us protect our planet, or one day we might not have one.

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