Inspiration / October 30, 2019

When The Wineries Burn, The Loss Is More Than Just Good Wine

I’ve heard remarks over the past week that people should run out and buy California wines as there are several wineries in danger of being burned and some that have already been lost to the Kincade Fire.

While many across the country and around the world recognize the Sonoma and Napa Valleys as global leaders in great winemaking, it’s easy to forget about what exactly made those labels so famous. The region is home to more than 400 wineries, some of which have been around since the 1800s.

Over the weekend, Soda Rock Winery, founded in 1869 and brought to life by Ken and Diane Wilson after they took ownership in 2000, was burned to the ground. The devastation to the landscape is jaw-dropping and the loss of this historic site cannot be replaced in this Alexander Valley community.

In an interview with Ken Wilson, The San Francisco Chronicle reported that, in addition to structural loss, the family lost all of their 2019 vintage and most of their inventory. Their business is gone, their livelihood affected.

Moreover, the workers who run the vineyards, wine production and work in the tasting rooms that draw tourists to the region are at risk of losing their jobs. The Jordan Family Winery’s border was met with the fiery blaze and many other wineries are at risk, standing in the current path of the relentless Kincade Fire.

Wine enthusiasts will recognize more and more establishments whose vineyards are landmarks in Sonoma and Napa Valley communities. For locals, it’s their friends and neighbors who are trying to protect their livestock, harvest and history as the fires continue to destroy the landscape.

According to Kaiser Health Network, the farmworkers, who were in the middle of the October harvest season when the Kincade Fire started last Wednesday, are at a high risk for smoke inhalation and health issues. While the importance of the harvest is essential to wine production, it is also essential to their paychecks.

A temporary regulation was implemented in July of this year to protect farmworkers during wildfires and require employers to provide the appropriate respirators or move workers away from wildfire smoke when the Air Quality Index reaches a certain threshold.

While this regulation is the first step in protecting the farmworkers who are vital to the economy of the region, the risk of unemployment is stressful as the fire-prone landscape is threatened each year.

For more live updates on the status of the California wildfires, visit The San Francisco Chronicle’s live blog.

Anna Fecskes

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