USA California wildfires threatening state's wine, tourism industries By Michelle Baran / October 15, 2017 Share 1 A fire burns at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Oct. 9. According to reports, wildfires destroyed the hotel as well as the adjacent Fountaingrove Inn. Photo Credit: Ben Margot, AP -- CONCORD, Calif. -- As Napa and Sonoma began to assess damages from the devastating wildfires that swept through the region last week, it became clear that a number of wineries, vineyards and hotels had been destroyed or seriously damaged, threatening the future of Northern California's lucrative wine and tourism industries just as vintners were heading into the busy harvest season. "On a positive note, given how late it is in the season, the concern of smoke taint on the grapes currently on the vine is low," Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers, said last Wednesday. "This assessment would be much different had the fires occurred in late July or early August."Kruse reported that more than 90% of the wine grape harvest had been completed in Sonoma County when the fires started, and many growers were still heading out to pick the remainder of their crops last week as the industry rushed to contain its losses, not least of which were entire wineries that had gone up in flames. The association confirmed that the Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa was among the businesses that had been destroyed, and news media reported that several other wineries in Sonoma had been lost as well. The Napa Valley Vintners association said it had preliminary reports that at least five wineries in Napa Valley had suffered total destruction or significant losses as a result of the fires.Last week, the destination marketing organization Visit Napa Valley posted a list of 20 hotels and 53 wineries and tasting rooms that had been closed, not necessarily because of fire damage but in some cases temporarily from losing power, being forced by authorities to evacuate or because employees weren't able to get to work. Well-known California wineries such as Beringer, Robert Mondavi and Sterling were among those that were closed last week. Twenty-one restaurants and attractions also reported that they had closed, including the well-known French Laundry and the Napa Valley Wine Train.Over the years, Napa and Sonoma have grown into significant tourist attractions. Napa Valley welcomed 3.5 million visitors in 2016, 73% of whom came for the wine, according to Visit Napa Valley.Clay Gregory, Visit Napa Valley's president and CEO, issued a statement last week saying that the economic impact of the wildfires on Napa County businesses was not known. Gregory recommended that anyone with plans to visit Napa make alternative arrangements while the fires continued to burn."Due to road passage difficulty and poor air quality, we are suggesting that visitors consider making alternate travel plans until the fires in Napa Valley have been contained," he stated.The upcoming Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference, scheduled to take place in Santa Rosa in Sonoma County on Nov. 6 to 8, is continuing as scheduled, according to conference organizers. "As a Sonoma County resident, I want to encourage everyone to confirm their plans to join us in November," said Thea Dwelle, an advisory board member of the Wine Bloggers Conference, which takes place immediately after the Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference. "We value your support and need your unique ability to spread the word that Sonoma and Napa wine industries are still active, vital and thriving," Dwelle said. "Your presence will reinforce that we are open for business and will contribute to the recovery economically and emotionally."The host hotel for the conference, Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country, confirmed it had not been affected by the fires.Among Napa and Sonoma hotels, there were total losses and temporary closures. Of the hotels that remained open, many were housing tens of thousands of evacuees. As of Oct. 12, at least three Santa Rosa hotels and another near Sonoma had been closed indefinitely due to fire damage.Santa Rosa's 250-room Hilton Sonoma Wine Country was destroyed, and the adjacent 124-room Fountaingrove Inn "fell victim to the devastating fire in Sonoma County," as well, according to a statement on the hotel's website by general manager Justin Hayman.Less than a mile away, the 96-room Best Western Plus Wine Country Inn & Suites was also shut down. The hotel suffered minimal damage, according to an Oct. 11 Facebook post.The Hilton Garden Inn Santa Rosa stated on its website that it was "temporarily closed," without providing further detail, and the Hilton Garden Inn Napa was closed. "We closed the hotel Monday afternoon as we were without power and have been assessing the situation day by day," Hilton Garden Inn Napa wrote in a Facebook post last Thursday. "Power returned Tuesday afternoon, and we plan to reopen the hotel in the coming days."Just north of Sonoma, the 12-room Olea Hotel in Glen Ellen was closed, and the hotel said it would refund all deposits for reservations through the end of the year. Santa Rosa's 170-room Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa and the 136-room Sandman "may reopen soon," according to the Sonoma County Tourism Board. Both Hyatt, which manages the Andaz Napa and Hyatt Regency Sonoma, and InterContinental Hotels Group, which has three hotels in the area, said that none of their operations had been impacted by the fire.The fires forced many business owners, as well as leisure travelers who were in Napa and Sonoma last week, to join the hoards fleeing the area. Alabama World Travel, a Virtuoso agency based in Montgomery, Ala., had an incentive group of 65 salespeople from a Chicago-based company in Napa Valley last Monday when the blazes broke out.The agency's staff were with the group and moved them from Napa to San Francisco "very hurriedly, at a very rushed, frightening pace," said sales manager Amy Daniel, who was in the Alabama office at the time. Everyone made it safely to San Francisco, she reported.Last week, there were 22 active fires in California, mostly in the northern part of the state, as well as a significant blaze in Anaheim in Southern California. Disneyland, which is located in Anaheim, remained open.___Danny King and Jamie Biesiada contributed to this report.