How can you help the vineyards hit hardest by the Napa Valley fires? Well, start by drinking their wine.
With an endless news cycle, it can be easy to forget the raging fires that swept through California’s Sonoma and Napa wine country back in October—that is, unless you live there. While the industry generally considers itself fortunate—less than 14 percent of Napa’s 504,000 acres were burned—some of the finest small producers took a bad hit. Fortunately, there are very pleasant ways to help these dedicated artisans. The best thing, says Patsy McGaughy of the Visit Napa Valley association, is to visit. Failing that, indulge in a great bottle from them and toast to their recovery. Here are a few ideas from some of the most affected wineries.
Comparisons have little place in the face of disaster, but it’s safe to say no one had it worse than Signorello Estate—the first maker people mention when speaking about the fires’ impact. Most of the winery’s buildings were destroyed, though off-site storage means the elegant wines are largely still available. “The world saw Signorello Estate as the face of the Napa Valley fire,” notes Tom Taylor and Maurice Lombardo, architects recently hired to conceive the winery’s new facilities. “Soon they will see it as a leading symbol of this region’s comeback.”
TRY: Critic Robert Parker called Signorello’s Padrone cabernet ($175), a blend built in honor of the owner’s father, a “beauty.” signorelloestate.com
The good news is the VinRoc winery is “a cave dug into a hillside,” says co-owner Michael Parmenter, and most of its existing inventory was in an off-site warehouse. But that’s where the good news ends. “The fire pretty much devastated our property,” says Parmenter. “The main house, the guesthouse, a barn, all my business records—destroyed.” Though the vineyards are expected to survive, he also lost nearly all his 2017 harvest—and he’s still commuting from San Francisco. Nevertheless, he says, “we have to look at the half-full part of it. We’re still doing business.”
TRY: The newly released 2014 Atlas Peak estate cabernet ($125) is a classic Cali gem. vinrocnapa.com
“A lot of people were hurt worse than we were,” says Robert Sinskey, proprietor of his eponymous “dirt-totable” vineyard. “A lot of people suffered personal losses that were much more traumatic than ours.” Still, Sinskey’s operation lost 5 acres of irreplaceable old vine Bordeaux grapes—his entire holdings in the Stags Leap area—and 20 percent of his crop elsewhere had too much of what he calls “smoke taint.”
TRY: Sinskey’s aromatic Abraxas ($36), a blend of riesling, pinot gris, pinot blanc and gewürztraminer, is the perfect accompaniment to an alfresco supper. robertsinskey.com