By Christy Canterbury MW – GLOWw America

During Napa’s intense “fire season” last year, I wondered what locals have been doing about this menace since 2017. Napa is a moneyed wine region. Surely it has the funds to do something? A contractor working with a winery that suffered extensive 2020 wildfire damage countered, “How do people have money? They keep it.”

The outpouring of funds post-fires is enormous. (And, of course, some of that money comes from pockets outside the region.) Were funds being dedicated to fire prevention and mitigation in Napa? As Benjamin Franklin said of fire awareness in 1736, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Nicole Hakli, former sommelier and current wine consultant at De Maison Selections, worked the 2020 harvest at Newton Napa Valley. That is, she did until the Glass Fire ripped through Spring Mountain and burned Newton. Hakli said that from all of her conversations it seemed that fire season, “…has resulted in more research into smoke taint and protecting the Valley’s greatest product, but it hasn’t resulted in more efforts to combat actual fires or global warming. The macro-level needs to be addressed, and I think there is enough money in Napa Valley to support it if this was a collective effort in research.”

Hakli also said that the most surprising part of her experience “was how casual and disillusioned Californians were in regards to fires – especially those who lived through 2017.” Many did not take the situation seriously saying, “Oh, we have been through this a few years ago…nothing happens…it’s fine…” or, “This is very early for fire season. Normally we get fire season in October.”

Stephanie Franklin, an aspiring winemaker and vintner living in Texas who interned at Trois Noix Wines remembered, “I stayed in the heart of Napa and it was almost like zombie land. The streets were empty. I could feel the stress and the tension in the air. I felt that everyone was fighting to stay above water and trying to figure things out.”

It’s not that Napa’s wine industry hasn’t been busy, of course. Nicolas Quillé MW is the Chief Winemaking and Operations Officer for Crimson Wine Group, who owns Pine Ridge Vineyards in Napa, along with properties throughout California as well as in Oregon and Washington. He said, “I am unfortunately becoming an expert at crop insurance, business risk mitigation and smoke taint chemistry.” He certainly isn’t alone.

Read more at: https://timatkin.com/facing-the-fires/