California wine country adapting to annual wildfire threat

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The wine-growing season is what dream weddings make up Northern California: ripe grapevines and golden sunsets give a fascinating environment which attracts millions of people each year.

But now the harvest season corresponds with the fire season as wildfires are now an annual fact in the area.

In three of the last four years, the wildfires of the world's esteemed city have wreaked havoc, rendering it quite doubtful that it is prone to ash, flames and blackouts in the autumn.

Last month, firemen in the Napa Valley began to blaze, which was catastrophic, as sunny, dry and windy conditions again threw the town on the brink.

When the Pacific Gas & Energy power station shut down operation to save the wind from sinking and sparkle another inferno, thousands became helpless.

Having seen news pictures of winerys and people who are leaving their houses, Ash Mintern agreed to postpone his girlfriend on a romantic getaway from Tampa, Florida.

"I did not want to take any risk when I saw people evacuating from the area," said Minister.

Visitors such as Mintern are thinking about a visit to the area and are rethinking marketing plans for locals which rely on the tourism economy.

"When the fires make important news each year, people don't want to make long-term vacation plans here," says a filmmaker, who has been missing all his wedding concerts this year. Bob McClenahan.

By preventing wine degustations and big gatherings of some sort, the coronavirus pandemic already harmed Napa and Sonoma Countys' hospitality business.

The area began to rebound steadily as restaurants and bodegas reopened for outdoor drinking or eating in the late spring. In August, however a sequence of lightning storms set off wildfires to the west and east of Sonoma County, blackmailing the community in heavy smoke. Closed bodegas immediately followed virtual taste and promotions of wine clubs.

Then on September 27, winds over the green hills of Napa Valley pumped a small fire in the suburb of St. Helena and burned down into the valley floor burning hunds of households before leaving for Sonoma County.

The two fires came last year and 2017 after the catastrophic wildfires.

The most emblematic names of the region were lost or injured in the blaze: The fires devoured a farmhouse behind the Castello di Amores, which resembles the winegrowing of medieval castle, and burned over 100,000 bottles of wine, the Meadowood Restaurant, renowned for its Garden-to-Tables, was built save for its stairs and its fireplaces.

"This is the most devastating, most horrible year I have been in the wine business for 48 years," said owner Dario Sattui. Dario Sattui, of Amorosa.

However much of North California's vineyards, vineyards and delicatessen rooms have been destroyed so the perception of the town in flames scares companies throughout the city.

That has led officials of the government in tourism to finance a research on how the fire hazard affects the experience and behaviour of the user.

"Their imagination is that the whole region has been destroyed and in the ashes when you see the dramatic images of these wineries burning," says David Pearson, manager of the lavish Meadowood Resort whose owners are preparing to restore what has been burnt by flames.

The research would aim to determine whether the choice of citizens to visit the state has been shaped by them, though it is too premature to measure the long-term impact of the wildfires in2020, says Carolina Beteta, President and CEO of Visit California.

"Fire in the American West was long a fact of life," she said.

"They don't cancel anything California has to give its people and tourists though fires may be alarming.

Right now, high hotel occupancy rates after recent fires show that tourism is bouncing. Two upscale hotel chains are popping up in the area and many others are looking for resort growth authorisations.

However the fall has been an unpredictable cycle of visits for tourism officials around Napa and Sonoma, so they have started campaigns to persuade tourists from far off to schedule a winter or springtime when wildflowers are flowering and numbers slow down.

On-line, Visit Napa Valley encourages the season of Cabernet, which lasts from November to April, when crowds are diminishing and the flower bustle is behind us.

In the Fall, though, Sonoma County Tourism needs to concentrate "on the driving market" or citizens who can prepare for the last minute because they live in the vicinity, said president Claudia Vecchio.

Any marriage planners said that they expected to watch shorter marriage seasons in the spring.

"Rain is easier than fire to deal with said Janice E. Twomey, who this year delayed or cancelled about a dozen weddings.

She said pairs from far away in Europe requested her to schedule their marriages next year, an indication that fires and pandemics are going on at ceremonies.

She now suggests that protection policies for marriages be introduced to compensate for forest fire.

This article was made possible by Associated Press Photographer Eric Risberg in Napa.

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