In the post-fire world, wineries and tasting rooms increase their appeal with art, food, hikes, and forest bathing.
In Napa and Sonoma counties, the fields are green, wildflowers abound, and wine grapes are emerging on the vines. At Paradise Ridge Winery in Fountain Grove, one of only two wineries destroyed by last fall’s fires, the spirit is upbeat.
“We feel positive about the community’s energy to move forward. We’re intent on rebuilding and making the Wine Country experience better than before,” said co-owner Sonia Byck-Barwick.
Paradise Ridge was fortunate to have a second tasting room in Kenwood that remained open, and which launched a post-fire “Bubbles and Oysters” sparkling-wine tasting option in addition to its popular “Herb and Wine Sensory Experience.”
From more culinary choices to tastings combined with outdoor experiences and art viewing, new wine and hospitality options are popping up throughout the region.
Signorello Estate is the only Napa County winery that has not reopened. But its owner Ray Signorello Jr. recently launched the innovative “Cucina” program, which finds the winery’s on-staff chef and sommelier traveling to prepare special winemaker dinners at customers’ homes.
The Napa and Sonoma harvests were 90 percent complete, with most wine safely fermenting in barrels and tanks, when the fires struck — so vintners believe that most 2017 wines will be unaffected. Vines are hardy plants, and vineyards served as firebreaks. Less than 1 percent of the region’s vineyards were lost.
At Benovia Winery near Santa Rosa, the Ranch House tasting room reopened recently, and co-owner/winemaker Mike Sullivan offers an enhanced tasting with a winery tour. On Silverado Trail, a quarter-mile south of Signorello, Napa’s first kosher winery, Hagafen Cellars, is repairing its outbuildings and crushpad. New gazebo areas will offer new seated tastings.
Wine Country food-and-drink experiences are burgeoning. In Santa Rosa, St. Francis Winery offers restaurant-quality small plates. At Ashes & Diamonds, a new Oakville winery with white décor and midcentury vibes, a seated tasting features food cooked in a wood-fired oven. Opened last fall, Piazza Del Dotto Winery presents gourmet food pairings near Yountville.
To simplify your wine education, consider “The History of Napa Valley in 8 Glasses,” a program offered at the Culinary Institute of America A at Copia in downtown Napa. Visitors can also eat there at three venues, attend “Conversations” on food topics, or select cooking classes such as Sunday “Family Fundays.”
Leave the driving to others and board the Napa Valley Wine Train’s 1915 Pullman cars. The company’s new owners have launched “Quattro Vino” experiences — a sparkling wine reception, four-course lunch, then whistle-stops at three iconic wineries.
Outdoorsy types will enjoy the forest near the vineyards of Sebastobol’s Red Car Wine Company, where a tasting follows the new “forest bathing” option, a Japanese-inspired guided meditation practice. Kunde Family Winery in Kenwood offers moderate hiking past vineyards up 1,400 feet on Mayacamus Mountains. Pine Ridge Vineyards on Silverado Trail offers a new hike with a casual lunch. For yet another fun winey workout, consider Clif Family Winery’s new self-guided cruiser bike tours, departing from its St. Helena tasting room.
For art lovers, St. Helena’s Keenan Winery is hosting a new Dorothea Lange photography exhibit; and the “Napa Art Walk” features 10 sculptures to explore after visiting some of downtown Napa’s 20 tasting rooms.
While preparing for another winegrowing season, Benovia’s Sullivan reflected on last fall. “I haven’t changed my winemaking or my views on hospitality, but I’m more appreciative of the beauty and resiliency of Sonoma County,” he said. “We want people to experience what is special to us — our land, our wines, and our community.”
Wine Country Wineries
Paradise Ridge Winery
8860 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707-282-9020, PRWinery.com
3339 Hartman Road, Santa Rosa, 707-921-1040, BenoviaWinery.com
Ashes & Diamonds
4130 Howard Lane, Napa, 707-666-4777, AshesDiamonds.com
Red Car Wine Company
8400 Graton Road, Sebastopol, 707-829-8500, RedCarWine.com
3660 Spring Mountain Road, St. Helena, 707-963-9177, KeenanWinery.com