The true extent of damage endured by the wine industry during the north coast wildfires was a significant topic of discussion at the 2018 Unified Wine and Grape Symposium. Information collected by the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University offered more detailed insight into exactly what the industry experienced during the fires.
“It was named the wine country fires, but really it was kind of the Santa Rosa residential fires,” said President of the Sonoma County Winegrowers Karissa Kruse, “really the impact in Sonoma County was our homes.”
The fires resulted in 38 fatalities and the destruction of 5,300 homes. Initial reports were estimating catastrophic losses to the wine industry, however, 99.5 percent of the total wine grape crop value has been recovered. Paradise Ridge Winery was the only winey that was completely lost during the fire and several other operations lost fences or experienced damage to barns. The information collected showed that 93 percent of wineries were unaffected by the fires and 99.8 percent of vineyard acres in the north coast were unaffected.
The efforts to rebuild the community after the destruction have been extremely successful thus far. Nearly $30 million in charitable contributions have been made to support individuals affected by the fires. Contributing to that total, the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation has been able to raise over $750,000. “That money is going directly back to our frontline ag employees,” noted Kruse.
One segment of the wine industry that was hit the hardest was tourism, as many consumers were under the assumption that the area’s wineries were no longer available for wine-tastings, or lost their inventory altogether. “The worst thing you can do for Sonoma County is to believe or have the misconception that our vineyards were lost, our wineries were lost, or that the 2017 vintage was lost,” Kruse stated while sampling a 2017 pinot grigio at the conference.
Visitors have started to slowly make their way back to the area as the community continues to recuperate after the north coast wildfires. There are also indications that the overall economy in the area is also starting to recover as a result of increased tourism and the consumption of wines from the region. “That drives money right back into the economy that is helping those families directly rebuild their lives,” said Kruse.
Listen to the interview below.