“We’re open for business!” That’s the message out of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino wine country, six months after Northern California was hit by the worst wildfire season in its history. Helena View Johnston, Roy Estate, White Rock Vineyards and Signorello Estate in Napa were destroyed. Ancient grape vines at Segassia Vineyard were killed. In Sonoma, Paradise Ridge is gone. At Backbone Vineyard in Mendocino, the winery and five years worth of wine were lost. And these are just some of about 30 wineries that were damaged. The impact lingers on for the employees who suffered job and housing loss, and the families of those who died. But there’s some good news: the 2017 vintage had been almost completely harvested when the fires broke out in mid-October, and it’s expected to be exceptional.
This is the time to buy Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino wines, and to visit the wineries if you can. Purchases will directly help the economy of the region and many wineries are contributing a portion of proceeds to fire relief efforts, and hosting community fundraisers. Check the shelves at your local wine shop, and look online for smaller producers that are hard to find in our area. These three wines are a good place to start.
William Hill 2015 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($50): This wine is readily available at wine shops on Long Island. It’s a quintessential mid-priced Napa cab, big and bold, with aromas of blackberry and spice and flavors of plum, sage and licorice. The enormous and world-famous E. & J. Gallo winery is donating $1 million to aid the recovery; the William Hill Estate Winery is part of the Gallo portfolio and was damaged in the fires. williamhillestate.com
B.R. Cohn 2017 Sauvignon Blanc ($28): From Sonoma, this wine has a crisp, cool-climate profile of citrus, green melon and grapefruit. The fires stopped just at the edge of the vineyards next to the winery. Afterwards, B.R. Cohn founded the Heart of the Vine charity, which raised and distributed more than $300,000 to displaced evacuees. B.R. Cohn is also donating 10 percent of profits through 2018 to fire relief efforts. The winery, founded in 1984 by Bruce Cohn (manager of The Doobie Brothers), offers one-cent shipping to New York on a case. brcohn.com
White Rock Vineyards 2015 Chardonnay ($45): This is a Napa chard that’s rich, buttery and with notes of honey, quince and minerals. Owners and employees who lived nearby literally had to run from fast-moving Atlas Peak fire, and no one was injured. But their homes were destroyed, and much of the winery equipment, tanks and buildings burned down. The wine storage at White Rock is in an underground cave system—the huge, wooden doors into the cave, and some wine cases inside were lost, but about 80 percent of the inventory survived. whiterockvineyards.com