Trip Reports

Review: Visiting California Wine Country After the Fires

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At the end of September I was out in Sonoma with family friends, and barely a week later I was following the news of the fires with great sadness. Our Airbnb was just two blocks away from the evacuation zone in Santa Rosa.

A return trip to Healdsburg for a holiday event at Ferrari Carrano was already planned for this past weekend so I was both excited and somewhat anxious about returning. Was it even right to take up a hotel room if there were others who’d lost their homes that might need the space?

Seeing that hotel prices were no more expensive than usual (which is expensive), suggesting an equal supply to demand, and up until the last minute the hotel wasn’t even sold out, I felt better. Later I learned the local community is looking out for each other when it comes to housing, so you shouldn’t worry about booking available rooms.

View of vineyards in Healdsburg from this weekend

Driving in we weren’t sure what to expect, from news reports I was prepared for miles of charred fields and barren landscapes. And those places probably do exist. But it was the residents, not the wineries, hotels, and restaurants that were hardest hit.

Site of the Hilton Santa Rosa and Fountaingrove Inn

Scorched vines along Hwy 101

A destroyed McDonalds with Kohls untouched across the parking lot.

We did hit a patch on the 101 where the acrid smell of smoke crept in through the A/C and we could see where the Hilton Santa Rosa and Fountaingrove Inn once were, but otherwise it was business as usual. The drive up Dry Creek Road through Healdsburg was just as scenic as ever, the vineyards full of bright autumnal colors.

Dry Creek Valley in November

View from the Ferrari Carano terrace

Driving though Sonoma and southern Napa you’ll see charred hills next to flourishing vineyards. Not a scene of desolation. Most of the places you’re likely to visit are still the same beautiful destinations you’d expect.

Healthy Sonoma vineyards with charred hills behind

Chatting with winery and restaurant staff, the fires did affect them, but for most its the decreased tourism that is having a bigger impact. The best thing you can do to help with rebuilding is not to cancel your trip! If you were already planning to come out, don’t postpone. You’ll still have a lovely time and you’ll be showing #SonomaStrong and #NapaStrong support when they need it the most. 

Full Disclosure: I may receive affiliate credit from links in this post or on this site which will help fund my travels. Thank you for your support!

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