When the Fires Die Down: Where does Napa and Sonoma stand after this disaster?
Over the past months, the Sonoma and Napa fires have been on our minds. With those thoughts, many question have arisen. What is the future for the area? How much damage was actually done? What will happen to some of our favorite wines? Will there be an “off” vintage full of smoke tainted fruit? Well, we have some good news and bad news for you.
Let’s start with the good news as there is actually a lot more of this than some might expect. First of all, the timing of the fires could not have been better. The warmer than average summer caused the grapes to mature faster than usual. By the time the fires hit, the vast majority of the grapes had already been picked. Those that still remained on the vines were generally Cabernet Sauvignon, which is known to be the one of the most resistant to smoke taint due to the thick-skinned nature of the grape.
Secondly, occupied vineyards are extremely fire resistant. Forest fires feed on dry unkempt areas of the forest with a lot of underbrush. To the contrary, well maintained vineyards often have plenty of moisture and underbrush is uncommon as it is often pruned away. Fires will often burn right up to the edge of the vineyards and stop. In some cases, the edges of the vineyard may have some damage simply due to the extreme heat, but the overall vineyard will be safe. In fact, vineyards are so resistant that firefighters often use vineyards as rally points to escape blazes.
In the arena of future vintages, for the most part these have been untouched by the Napa fires. The reason for this is that, many wineries do not keep their aging or bottled wines on site. Land is quite the valuable commodity in these areas. At an average of $310,000 per acre in Napa and $150,000 in Sonoma, many wineries have opted to store future vintages in off-site facilities outside of the appellation.
As a whole, Napa and Sonoma will continue to thrive; however, there is still bad news. To start, tragically many lives were lost over the week of fires. There are several wineries that had extensive damage to their tasting rooms or onsite winemaking and storage facilities. Some vineyards have been fully engulfed due to heavy gust of wind that bring the fires directly into the area. Damaged or replanted vines can take up to 6 years to bear fruit. It is with these affected wineries that our hearts are heavy and wish to offer our support as they attempt to pick up the pieces and recover.
Here at A. Bommarito Wines, Mayacamas is a winery that hits close to home for us. Mayacamas was affected by the Nun’s fire on October 10th as it entered the Mount Veeder appelation. The fire touched all 485 acres of the estate. It completely demolished “The Residence,” one of the two main building on the premises. The Residence was the building that hosted many of the wineries visitors for dinners and tastings. The main portion of this building was built in the late 1800s, and so a lot of rich history was lost. It also housed a small wine cellar full of wine which was a complete loss.
The majority of the Mayacamas vineyards remain intact; though some were scorched around the edges by the tree line. The extent of that damage remains to be seen till spring as the cinged vines return to life. The grapes that had just recently entered this year’s vinification process were still on site as the fire roared. They were not touched, but the fire was awfully close and the extreme heat may have tainted the wine.
All of this has happened on the door step of a very exciting moment for a new Mayacamas team – the release of their first vintage of Cabernet made from start to finish. The 2013 vintage of Mayacamas Cabernet is believed by the staff to be the best vintage since the 1970’s. It is the culmination of years of decisions made to better the wine in the vineyard and in the winery. It is at this time, that we ask your support for this winery and their team, and to keep them in your mind over the coming months.
Through it all, everyone at Mayacamas has maintained a positive attitude and a bright outlook for the future. Jimmy Hayes of Mayacamas said of a recent survey of the property, “For the first time I didn’t notice what had been lost, but instead that the beautiful view was still there, as special as ever, unchanged by all that’s happened. For me, it was a reminder of how special Mayacamas is, and a symbol of great things to come.”
Savory, bright and deep, this generous wine offers black cherry, ripe blackberry, and mission fig. On the palate herb notes of star anise, marjoram and French lavender provide complexity and depth alongside the juicy bramble fruits. Secondary notes of graphite, cacao and pencil lead hint at classic wines of the old world.
Aromatic notes of lime zest, wet slate, fresh vanilla, and lemon candy mark the nose. The powerful palate is supported by bracing acidity and multiple citrus fruits—key lime, kumquat, and seville orange. Secondary flavors of pine, oyster shell, and flint make for a complex and exciting Chardonnay.