Rick on Insight

In this installment of Kushman by the Bottle, Rick Kushman provides an update on the vintage and impact of recent fires. With some devastation at wineries, what will visitors find for the holiday season, which is key for Sonoma County’s economy?

Although Soda Rock Winery in Healdsburg in Sonoma County was destroyed and a few other wineries lost some buildings, the 2019 vintage in the region is relatively fine. More than 90 percent of the grapes were picked, and according to experts, vineyards are quite fire resistant.

The wine area hit by the Kincade Fire is the Alexander Valley. It’s roughly twenty-five miles in length, starting north of Napa, angling toward 101 from east of Healdsburg to around Cloverdale. Dry Creek Valley, west of 101, and somewhat paralleling the highway from Healdsburg in the south, was hit by power outages.

But the damage has been economic. During the fires themselves, we also hear this from Sonoma County Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins and State Senator Mike McGuire. Wine country tourism took a big hit at a usually busy time. This included Napa, but Sonoma was hit harder as its tourism really hasn’t bounced back from the 2017 fires that chased people away and reluctant to come back.

With respect to 2017 and fire, the red wines from the year of the huge Napa and Sonoma fires are out on the market. During those fires, about eighty percent of the grapes had already been picked. Fears that smoke would taint the wines is driving prices down on the highest end, in part, because those buyers purchase to put wines in their cellars or are collectors and smoke taint only gets worse over time. But evidence of smoke in these wines has not materialized. 

Rick Kushman also answers holiday questions about wine: what wines make good gifts, are good to serve if you’re hosting and what to bring to a party or dinner. Click here to listen!

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