Revisiting Sonoma County
Tuesday, July 3, 2018
In October 2017, the North Coast wildfires burned at least 245,000 acres of land and cost at least $9.4 billion in damages. Last year, we talked to ILEA Napa-Sonoma Chapter President Heather Vieira to hear how the fires affected local events businesses, and we were inspired by the resolve and drive to rebuild the community. Seven months later, Dana Macaulay, director of experiential marketing at Sonoma County Vintners and a director on the ILEA International Board of Governors, offered some additional insights into what makes this resilient area so special for events and visitors. Read her perspective below.
ILEA: What makes Sonoma County a special destination for visitors?
Macaulay: Sonoma County is diverse by nature; it’s a very unique place to visit offering world-class wines and a multitude of landscapes ranging from valleys to mountaintops, meadows to forests, riverbeds to ocean cliffs. Wine country offers something for everyone, including stunning event venues for your clients, and is a dream destination for wine lovers and food and travel enthusiasts.
ILEA: What was the impact of the North Coast wildfires of October 2017?
Macaulay: Our sense of community and resilience in the days and months following the October wildfires has been so inspiring. We are very grateful for the efforts of the first responders, our dedicated public officials, community leaders and all of the many everyday heroes who stepped up to help those in need and the outpouring of support that came from all around the country and the globe. As our focus has shifted from the most immediate needs; we now look to the future and a long-term approach toward recovery.
ILEA: Was the 2017 grape harvest and wine vintage affected by the wildfires?
Macaulay: While the circumstances will certainly make the 2017 harvest season an unforgettable one, most of our fruit was harvested prior to the wildfires. Warm weather in late August and early September led to a quickened harvest, and over 90 percent of the grapes had been picked prior to the fires. In fact, grapevines are very resilient and acted as a natural firebreak, not only surviving, but helping to slow and stop the spread of the wildfires. Approximately 4 percent of Sonoma County vineyards were situated in fire zones, and less than 100 vineyard acres were lost in the fires.
Our Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute conducted a Wildfire Impact Survey — see below for an infographic with the preliminary findings — and found that early indicators point to a strong recovery and that the impact on the wine industry is nominal compared to early accounts.
Our vintners have a positive outlook on the 2017 vintage and are committed to releasing the quality wines that Sonoma County wine enthusiasts have come to know and love.
Dana Macaulay is the director of experiential marketing at Sonoma County Vintners and the managing director of the Sonoma County Wine Auction. Sonoma County Vintners is a nonprofit association dedicated to raising awareness of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier wine regions, noted for its heritage of artisan winemaking, distinct growing regions and extraordinary quality. Dana is a director on the ILEA International Board of Governors, has served as Western Region VP for ILEA and is a past president of the ILEA Napa-Sonoma Chapter.
Header image courtesy of Sonoma County Vitners