Visit the Napa Valley as California Wine Country is Open For Business

On Sunday, October 8th, I was enjoying a sun-drenched autumn day while covering the opening of the PGA Tour FedEx Cup circuit, the Safeway Open at the magnificent Silverado Resort & Spa.

At 7 p.m. I was toasting Brendan Steele, the winner of the tournament along with Napa Mayor Jill Techel. Shortly after that; I biked to my downtown Napa home. Two hours later I smelled smoke and figured merely that nearby neighbors must be burning wood or putting out a barbeque.

I woke up Monday morning to a smoky haze in the air looking more like a scene out of ‘Apocalypse Now.’ The antithesis of a typical sun-drenched wine country late summer day in October. I glanced at my iPhone, and it showed that there was no service. It wasn’t until I turned on the news that I discovered that heavy winds sparked 13 fires throughout Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties were in the midst of towering infernos.

Napa Valley mayors and businesses want to remind you that the Napa Valley is open for business

My first reaction was that of disbelief.  Just hours before I had left a picture-perfect final day of golf at the Silverado Resort where the Atlas Fire emerged. As I’ve mentioned to many of my European friends who are unfamiliar with Napa wine country, “What Bordeaux is to France and Tuscany is to Italy, the Napa Valley is California’s equally if not more charming preeminent wine region.”

The ensuing week was tumultuous and as maddening as I have experienced. Thanks to the incredible dedication of over 10,000 firefighters and other first-responder emergency service teams that converged on Northern California from as far away as Canada and Australia, the wildfires were quickly contained. Stories of destruction, loss of homes and businesses, also included tales bravery, altruism, and glimmers of hope that the valleys core interior would remain intact.

There are around 500 wineries in the Napa Valley, and vinitourism is at the forefront of employment for Napa County residents. In the United States nearly 30 million travelers, more than 20% of American leisure travelers, took a culinary trip including wine immersion activities.

The interior of the Napa Valley was unscathed by the recent wildfires

Miraculously, a small number of wineries were damaged by the wildfires. Five wineries sustained significant losses or completely burned down, and 11 others suffered partial destruction.

Just days before in the thick of blazing wildfires, it appeared unfathomable that wine country could make such a rapid comeback. While many travelers grapple with uncertainty if the Napa Valley is ready for visitors, the answer is clear, as mayor Techel of Napa states, “The city of Napa and the surrounding valley are open for business.”

“It’s a great time to come for a visit. The weather is still warm, and you now can walk right into our many fine restaurants without a reservation,” said Yountville mayor John Dunbar.

Calistoga mayor Chris Canning, whose city evacuated on Thursday of the week-long wildfires with residents not allowed to return until Sunday mentions, “Come back, enjoy and support those affected by the fires by staying at our hotels, visiting our world-class wineries, eating at our restaurants which are all open for business.”

An unprecedented opportunity to visit the Napa Valley without a reservation

The economic impact of the wildfires in Napa County cannot be determined until well into the coming year. While it’s difficult to fathom that business will be entirely back to normal, it is important to note that the Napa Valley and its charming wineries are open for tastings.

The Visit Napa Valley Welcome Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in downtown Napa to assist guests with personalized itineraries, as are the welcome centers in wine countries towns of Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga.

For an update on the Napa Valley wineries and the 2017 harvest, please refer to The Napa Valley Vintners website.

Want the help the Napa Valley? Visit Napa Valley!

About the author: Nicholas Kontis

Nicholas Kontis was born on one of the most breathtaking islands in the world, Santorini, Greece, and brought up in America's culture capital of San Francisco. Nick developed a passion for travel at a very young age, going back and forth between San Francisco and Athens. At age 24 after a 13 month world exploration pilgrimage, Nick returned to San Francisco and opened the first travel agency in the U.S. specializing in discount around the world airfares. Now as a journalist, Nick has been featured as a guest speaker on both radio and television. His first is titled Going Local Experiences and Encounters on the Road and covers the rise of peer to peer travel and ways to live experientially. Nick’s mantra is “Take the plunge, Go and create your own travel tales.” Nick calls San Francisco, the Napa Valley and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico home. Should anyone purchase his book on Amazon, he is donating all proceeds to the Napa-Sonoma fire victims relief. Over 5,000 homes are lost, but we will rebuild. Sparingly few wineries were lost. Click here

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