Months After the Northern California Fires, Napa and Sonoma Vineyards Are Ready for Business
But driving through Napa and Sonoma counties several weeks after the fires broke out, you'll see that fall rains have returned hills that were charred to the vibrant greens that are typical this time of year. For the most part, the vineyards and wineries are as beautiful as ever. If you are sipping Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley or spending the weekend taking in Healdsburg’s first-rate gourmet offerings, the only signs of the fire might be #SonomaStrong billboards and hand-painted signs thanking first responders.
A drive up the Sonoma Highway, however, will take you by the communities of Glen Ellen and Kenwood that were hit hard. In this slideshow, we revisit some of the hotels, restaurants and wineries Travel + Leisure has recommended to see what they look like after the fires.
Speaking with the people who work in these establishments, you hear different versions of the same message: No one wants to minimize the tragedy of the fires, but the fact is, most of the wineries that draw visitors to the region emerged unscathed. Vineyards acted as a natural fire break, and firefighters from all over California worked around the clock to protect as much as they could. And a key component to getting the region back on its feet is tourism, making now the perfect time to visit Napa and Sonoma.
Just north of the town of Healdsburg, Jordan Winery is in a part of Sonoma County that was not directly affected by the fires. Tours and tastings are available by appointment and come with food pairings from the winery chef. The winery itself is in a grand chateau, and the vineyards offer sweeping views of Alexander Valley.
Three Sticks at the Adobe
The tasting room for Three Sticks Wines is a chic, historic Adobe in the town of Sonoma, built in 1842 by Mexican general Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. Much of the town had to evacuate as the fires were just a mile away. Fortunately, the town of Sonoma was spared, and The Adobe reopened after a week and a day. Tastings with optional food pairings are by appointment.
Just outside the town of Sonoma, Ravenswood is known for their bold Zinfandels. The Nuns fire came very close, but a trench dug out by Cal Fire stopped it before it got to the vineyard and winery.
This charming family-owned inn is in the hard-hit town of Glen Ellen, but the guest house and vineyard were mostly spared. It is currently closed with plans to re-open in January 2018.
Healdsburg was not directly effected by the fires, but when they broke out the winery closed and Chef Dustin Valette’s team started cooking food for first responders at local fire departments, evacuation shelters and police departments. Once word got out, they had local chefs coming to help. One farmer even showed up with two truckloads of produce.
Chefs at Single Thread
The team at Single Thread was happy to be able to put their skills as chefs to use in a time of crisis. From Left: Chef/Owner Kyle Connaughton; Chef de Cuisine, Aaron Koseba; Sous Chef Joshua Lanning.
With two Michelin stars, Single Thread is one of the top restaurants in the region. They also have a luxurious inn above the restaurant. As with many businesses in the area, Single Thread closed during the fires. There was a bumper crop of tomatoes at the time, so the kitchen started churning out gallons of tomato soup and sandwiches for people in evacuation shelters. Going forward Chef/Owner Kyle Connaughton is looking for ways to continue providing food to local shelters.
Odette is a producer of critically acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa’s Stags Leap district. They were in the middle of their harvest when the Atlas fire broke out about a mile away. Fortunately the fire never made it to their vineyard, and they completed the harvest. The modern tasting room has beautiful views of their vineyards.
Cliff Lede's Vice President & General Manager
Remi Cohen had power at home throughout the fires, so she was able to facilitate communication for the Cliff Lede team while they led efforts to protect the Poetry Inn and vineyards during the fires.
The Atlas fire came right up to Cliff Lede’s luxury hotel, the Poetry Inn, affecting one vineyard, but the hotel itself was spared, and the rest of the vineyards emerged unscathed. Cliff Lede’s passions for Modern art and Rock & Roll come through in the tasting room surrounded by artwork and vineyard blocks named for famous rock albums.
The Hess Collection
High above the valley floor on Mt. Veeder, The Hess Collection offers tastings in their historic winery that also houses a private museum where you can take in the owner’s Modern art collection. The fires were nearby, but vineyards acted as a natural fire break, and the property was spared. They were forced to close for several weeks before reopening their doors to visitors.
Auberge du Soleil
This World’s Best Winner is one of the top resorts in wine country. They decided to close during the fires, but the property itself was not impacted. The accommodations are luxurious, but any visitor to the valley might consider stopping by the restaurant for breakfast or lunch to take in a meal and a glass of wine with sweeping views of Napa Valley.
Napa Valley Aloft
Napa Valley is not very large, and from 2,000 feet in the air, you can see it from one end to the other. Colorful vineyards sandwiched by mountains make a beautiful and dramatic landscape. The fire damage is now visible only in some dark, burned patches on the hilltops.