Scenic view of fall colors in vineyards and trees, with hills in background and wine-tourer taking a phone picture.

Sonoma’s Where My Heart Is – The Fires

The fires got to me.

Sonoma and wine generally are — were — my respite from worldly woes: hurricane after hurricane after hurricane and mass shootings, politics, family health matters, terrorism, and all the rest.

And then the fires.

I was safe. A continent away. But obsessed and traumatized.

I had a pleasant Sunday. Woke up Monday to wildfires blown across my ‘happy place’ by 70 mph winds.

Willi’s burned.

“Do you have a favorite winebar in Sonoma?”

“Not any more.”

A neighborhood like where Willi’s Winebar was should not burn down. A residential neighborhood — like dozens strewn across Sonoma and ‘wine country’ — should not burn… not in northern California… not like that.

I don’t want to even try to imagine the trauma of being there. Fires on the ridges, smell of smoke at midnight. Evacuations, burned neighborhoods. Everyone knows someone who… and the blanks you fill in aren’t happy.

I wish everyone there a speedy recovery, and that you always remember to be gentle with yourselves and others.

People are people, do what they do. Chefs started cooking free meals. Photographers started taking pictures. Firefighters raced to the flames. Etc.

It’s less pretty to think that there were people looting and even setting fires.

Nobody needs anyone driving through burnt-out neighborhoods, gawking, either.

But it’s bad enough to drive along a road and see what used to be a neighborhood, now reduced to rubble and chimneys and burned cars and tree trunks.

Chimneys, rubble, and tree trunks where a neighborhood used to be.

The people who lived in those houses with their families and pets… that’s a lot of lives interrupted, with the accessories of a comfortable life burned away.

Sonoma Strong

They seem to mean it. People who lost their homes… are out helping others. Lots of people pitching in. I suppose when you say “Sonoma Strong”, it reminds you to be strong, that you are strong.

What can you — we — do?

There are plenty of charities to donate to.

There’s plenty of wine. Buy some. Enjoy it. Think of all the people who helped make it. Cheers!

Visit! Wineries and tasting rooms are open for business. Go team!

In fact, almost all vineyards and wine makers suffered very little or no direct damage. Turns out, vineyards are excellent firebreaks. I saw more than one that was a little toasty along one edge, but 99.9+% undamaged… at least to see from the road. Grape leaves are lovely in the fall.

This is a wonderful time of year to visit Sonoma. Actually, every season is a wonderful time of year to visit Sonoma.

I was…

I was already planning to visit Sonoma for the Wine Bloggers Conference (#WBC17).

There were a couple of sessions on the fires and dealing with fires. Oof.

I was glad after the conference to do a wine tour. We visited Iron Horse, Teldeschi in Dry Creek Valley, Loxton north of Glen Ellen, and MacLaren and Enkidu in Sonoma.

A bunch of wine bottles lined up, with more behind... from various Sonoma wine makers.