Impatiently Awaiting a Return to ‘Normal’ in Wine Country

It’s difficult to even think about seeking some “good news” in the wake of the devastating fires that have hit California’s North Coast wine country this year.

Acres of historic vineyards burned, several wineries were destroyed, and numerous other estates were badly damaged. Some wineries saw row after row of barrels housing various vintages go up in flames.

At the moment, the 2020 vintage in the Napa Valley is one big question mark.

But as bad as it is, it could have been worse.

While numerous wineries were left with virtually nothing following the fires, according to the Napa Valley Vintners, about 80 percent of the trade association’s 550 member wineries will produce at least some wine with a 2020 vintage on the label.

Keeping the numbers down, besides destruction caused by the fires, is the concern in some areas about grapes being harmed by smoke.

This is where the “good news” comes in. That doesn’t seem to be as significant an issue as it could have been. Furthermore, many wineries had harvested a significant percentage of their grapes before the fires and smoke hit the valley.

At some wineries, it’s a mixed bag. As an example, they may be able to bottle a Cabernet Sauvignon, but not a Merlot. In other instances, the “typical recipe” used for making multi-variety blends may have to be altered — or a new name created for a new cuvee.

2020 has been a year like no other, and North Coast wine country got hit with a double whammy when the wildfires paid an unwelcome return visit.

In 2021, when we’ve hopefully returned to some semblance of normal, the vintners of Napa Valley will welcome guests with open arms. They’ve always appreciated the opportunity to host visitors, and the guess here is that their welcome mats will (figuratively speaking) be rolled out all the way to Highway 29 or the Silverado Trail.

When you feel safe to travel and return to the tasting rooms, they’ll be really happy to see you.

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