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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wine Country Fires

I was contacted yesterday by ABC - Channel 13 out of Richmond to get my opinion about how the fires out in California's wine country will affect the Virginia wine industry. To be frank, I hadn't really given it a lot of thought until asked, at least not from a business / economic angle. My mind and heart had been directed towards the losses out there, and the lives, and it was more of recognizing the years and years it had taken them to get to producing thriving vineyards, and how many more it will take them to recover, if that is the choice that is made.


I had personally experienced a devastating fire before when I had my plastics experience. But luck have it the fire which absolutely destroyed the mill complex I was in managed to allow my business to be the hole in the donut, the only business not burned to the ground. For me it was a 6 beer night, as I returned home near midnight after I saw the fire advance through the mill complex from afar. There was a sense of hopelessness, and I recognized I needed to let it play out and return the next day to see what was left. For me I was one of the lucky ones....I just had to "pack my bags" and take the next 3 months to run my business out of the garage, relocate, and restart the machines in a new location. For these vineyards that weren't so fortunate, they must go through soil recovery, replanting, nurturing vines for 5 or so years, and then finally getting to harvest. It may be 2025 before things seem to get back to normal, assuming that is the choice they have made. An awful lot of sweat equity is used up in building up a vineyard-winery business, and some people don't have much left to try again.

As for how it will trickle down towards Virginia, I don't see it being visible very soon. For the wineries that sold their wine via distributors to Virginia stores, personally I didn't see that many I recognized as I reviewed the list of those affected by the fires. I am assuming the wineries that had major damage sold more locally. For the vineyards however that is another story. Virginia has nearly 280 wineries now, and the local vineyards do not produce enough grapes to supply them. Virginia wineries have needed to go outside the state to obtain the grapes and grape juices they need to maintain output. California, along with Oregon, Washington, New York, and a few other places have provided the boatload of these grapes. Though the current year has been taken care of, future years might be influenced by the reduction in producing vineyards. We'll just have to wait and see.

                                           (Photos courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle)

As I write this the fires are still burning. Emergency crews are working from pure adrenaline; exhaustion is commonplace. Lives have been lost. Dreams chattered. If you are religious by nature, it is never too late to offer a prayer. If you want to provide some sense of comfort, trade buying a bottle of California wine for a contribution to the charities and services that are in the midst of the chaos and could use your continued support.

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