Grace Under Fire

Sonoma Fires

This week, as New England basked in unseasonably gorgeous sunshine. Northern California burned. And burned. Wildfires raged throughout Napa, Mendocino, and Sonoma Counties, killing 23 (at this count), injuring many more, and causing billions of dollars in property damage.

When you think of fire damage, what comes to mind? A house, a barn, a hotel? Maybe a business or 2? Do you ever imagine entire neighborhoods burned to the ground? Because that's what happened in CA this week. And then there are the vines...

As the daughter of farmers, I am peculiarly attuned to agricultural loss. An early or late frost, an unrelenting drought, or a freak hailstorm, and your crop, representing one year of work and one year of 'salary' is gone. Just gone. Irretrievable. It is a heartbreak of gargantuan proportions.

But I should count myself lucky that Dad farmed wheat and sunflowers, because grape growers have it far worse. They aren't losing one harvest, but multiple years of harvests. Vines don't yield a commercial crop until they are at least 5 years old; they don't yield a compelling crop for a few years after that. And for older vineyards, particularly some of Sonoma's iconic 'old-vine' Zinfandel, what's lost in a fire could take 8 or 9 decades to replace. Will anyone exhibit that level of patience again? What exquisite wines will be lost to this disaster, not just this vintage, but forever?

During the worst of the fires, Fulcrum Winery owner and winemaker David Rossi stopped by the store as part of a swing through MA. David's winery and tasting room are in Santa Rosa, in the thick of the wildfires. He was certainly preoccupied, fielding calls from employees, and placing calls to vineyard managers to ascertain where and how bad the damage was. But he was also very much his charming self, showing his beautiful wines with characteristic humor and wit. When I mentioned that I was coordinating an auction donation of a Sonoma trip for the local Chamber of Commerce, he immediately offered up a private tour and tasting, conducted by himself. In the middle of a wildfire, not knowing if he would even have a tasting room, he didn't hesitate to offer its use for a charitable endeavor.

I love my job. I love the crazy pace, I love the variety, and of course I love the wines. But I think I love the people most of all.