Photo of a bottle of Recession Wines in front of Manhattan's skyline in New York, November 18, 2008. The Californian wines, available in three flavours, Recession Cabernet Sauvignon, Recession Merlot, and Recession Chardonnay. (AFP Photo/Emmanuel Dunand)
By Liu Mei
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- The wildfires scorching Northern California, are not only one of the catastrophes in the Golden State history, but also one of the most expensive disasters, since some of the world priciest wines were burning to ashes and the whole billion-dollar industry were thrown into the chaos.
Till Saturday, the wildfires descended on Napa, Sonoma and Santa Rosa Counties since last Sunday night, killed at least 31 people, destroyed thousands of structures, including homes and businesses, and left hundreds still missing.
These areas are the homes of some world-renowned vineyards and wineries, identified by its climate, geology and other factors to be ideal for producing high quality wine.
There are over 400 wineries and about 45,000 acres (182 square kilometers) of vineyards in Napa Valley area. Sonoma County has about 60,000 acres (243 square kilometers) of vineyards and 425 wineries.
Now some small wineries have been totally burned down by the ruthless fire, like the well-known Napa's Signorello Estate and White Rock Vineyards. While some big wineries are suffering more losses, since their 10 years'or even 20 years'cellar have been destroyed.
Almost all the tasting rooms in Napa and Sonoma are shuttered and nobody knows the re-open time.
"As the situation is still pending, so it's still very difficult to really tell what the specific impact it will bring to the industry. I can tell that there will be some significant impact, and the impact will be lasting for some time for sure," Arthur Walsh, the chief editor of Food and Beverage World magazine told Xinhua on Friday.
The optimistic side for some vineyards owners is that as much as 90 percent of this year's grapes have been harvested, because this summer's heat wave prompted growers to take the grapes off the vines earlier than usual.
However, for those who grow the grapes like cabernet, sauvignon and petite sirah might be more disastrous, since most of these crops are still on the vine and the price for these grapes are about 6,800 U.S. dollars a ton, which is one of the priciest grapes in the world, according to the report released by Napa Valley Vintners on Thursday, a non-profit trade association.
Napa and Sonoma Valley are always the popular point for the tourists from all over the world, especially for Asian. The famous wine tasting tours are something "must-do" when tourists visit Northern California. Just spend thirty or fifty U.S. dollars, one can taste about a dozen of different wines, and most visitors from Asian, such China, Korean and Thailand would purchase some wines from Napa or Sonoma.
"All of our one-day tour to Napa Valley or Sonoma Valley have been forced to change due to the fire. All the visitors from China feel regrettable for not going to the wine country," an Asian travel agency owner Bessie Wong told Xinhua on Friday.
According to the statistic report of 2017 by Napa Valley Vintners that the local wine industry and related businesses provide an annual economic impact of more than 13 billion U.S. dollars locally and more than 50 billion U.S. dollars in the U.S., create 46,000 jobs in Napa County and 303,000 nationwide.
Jim Gordon, editor of Wines and Vines magazine, told Witter Daily News that he is more worried about the fire's effect on wine tourism than the harvest itself.
"It's a huge worry that people will stay away because of the fires, especially this time of year. Wine country does most of its tourism business around harvest."
When asked if the market price of those saved wines will be raised later, Walsh said it is still too early to give the answer, he would like to do some survey about the losses and impact that the fire has brought to the industry on earth.
The wine industry consultant, Robert Smiley believed that the fire could shrink the supplies, but as there are some competitions from France and Chile, it's hard to say if the price will be affected, Sacramento Bee newspaper reported.
There are over 4,600 wineries in the state of California, those are affected by the fire in Napa and Sonoma are small part of it. On Wednesday, some unaffected wine industry business in the state is reaching out to help, the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance started a fundraising effort for affected wineries.
Living in Sotona, Walsh is quite familiar with Napa and Sonoma area.
"Though the impact will come, that's not to say our city will not adapt. We are working very hard to get the fire under control, from there we will rebuild and get back to business as usual," Walsh told Xinhua.