Fires, Pandemic, Recession oh my!!! Where do we go from here? It can only be up.
Here we are in October, 2020, and the glimmers of hope in the economy trailing by seem more like hallucinations. For the wine business in California, it’s one step forward, two steps back. But Californians are resilient. We are getting through this and we will survive to make wine another day.
The on-premise sector for wine sales is slowly improving. Restaurants with outdoor dining in my area of Los Angeles County have been packed. The seating is limited but with talks of some indoor dining opening by the end of October, capacity will increase and so also will wine sales.
People want to go out to eat, support their local restaurants for a variety of reasons. They are mainly tired of eating in, whether they are cooking or ordering take out. People want the restaurant experience, no matter have different it has become.
The Coronavirus has been hard to handle. Some people’s inability to socially distance and a small percentage of the population’s refusal to wear masks has slowed our ability control the virus. More testing, contact tracing and better treatments coming online should improve the situation, save more lives and get us through until a vaccine arrives some time next year.
Then there are the fires. This year has been the worst for California on record, and it’s not over.
The Glass fire has been worse than all the others. The harvest is all but lost. Smoke taint and how to deal with it is the question on everyone’s mind. The best remedy so far, throw away the grapes. What little Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is deemed of quality will make great wine, but there will be little of it.
Grapes harvested early, like most whites, will be fine. As a wine buyer for a restaurant or retailer it will be challenging to know what is good from 2020. We must trust our palates. Good winemakers make good wine regardless of the challenging conditions.
And the problem isn’t going away. Global warming causes hotter summers which causes more intense fire seasons and bigger more destructive fires. It’s a doomsday forecast. The fire years are racking up.
Here is an incomplete list of recent fires affecting wine producing areas of California.
2015 – Lake Fire – Lake, Napa, Sonoma
2015 – Valley Fire – Lake
2015 – Rocky Fire – Lake
2016 – Soberanes Fire – Monterrey
2016 – Chimney Fire – San Luis Obisbo
2016 – Clayton Fire – Lake
2017 – Tubbs Fire – Napa, Sonoma, Lake
2017 – Nuns Fire – Napa
2017 – Atlas Fire – Napa
2017 – Thomas Fire – Santa Barbara
2018 – Mendocino Complex – Mendocino, Lake
2018 – Bear Fire – Santa Cruz
2018 – Morgan Fire – Contra Costa
2018 – Camp Fire – Butte
2019 – Kincade Fire – Sonoma, Napa
2019 – Eagle Fire – Lake
2019 – Cypress Complex – Contra Costa
2019 – Sky Fire – Contra Costa
2019 – Glencove Fire – Solano
2019 – Burris Fire – Mendocino
2020 – Ongoing….
This list is exhausting. California wines will always have a place in my heart and on my table. But what about my “Pipe-dream” of starting a winery? Where do I find a piece of land to plant vines in this Golden State to make wine of quality that isn’t at risk of fire? I’m searching. I’ll let you know. Stay tuned.