Travelers are reluctant to book or follow through on planned
trips to Northern California's wine country despite most of the Napa Valley
being open for business.
Fears from wildfires are lingering, said Dani Johnson, vice
president of Garden Grove, Calif.-based Coastline Travel Advisors. She
specializes in high-end wine country excursions.
Many couples and groups have been dissuaded even though wildfires
have been largely contained but some continued to burn early Thursday, said
Johnson. She had been assured by contacts at various wineries that there was
little to be concerned about in the Napa Valley.
"I tried to get
my clients to mellow out and wait, but over the weekend, they all freaked out,"
said Johnson, who estimated that she sells about $200,000 in wine country trips
and tours a year. "Their idea is that all of Napa is demolished and that
there's nothing left of it. I tried to explain that Yountville, Napa and
Calistoga are all fine."
The fires across
Sonoma, Napa and Yuba counties, which some consider to be the worst in the
state's history, destroyed much of Santa Rosa and resulted in the deaths of 42 people,
including 23 in Sonoma County and seven in Napa County.
For the wineries and wine lovers, the timing could've been
worse. About 90% of this year's grape crop had already been picked by the time
the fires started, said Johnson, citing conversations she's had with vintners
Johnson, who works regularly with wineries such as Arkenstone, Cimarossa and Marston, as well as Meadowood resort, estimated that it will take about
two years to determine whether the fires impacted the quality of the remaining
10% of the grapes on the vine.
Still, the timing was bad from a tourism angle because the
fires struck during the middle of the popular harvest season, when wine lovers
flock to the area from mid-September to late October for activities that celebrate
the harvest. Such trips are especially popular for couples and groups
celebrating milestone birthdays.
While she is dissuading clients from exploring the Sonoma
area right now, Johnson said she will make a concerted effort to sell the Napa
She will tell customers that suppliers will be "bending
over backwards for you to make that trip good."
"I'm letting them know they can still have an amazing
experience," she said.
Correction: Meadowood Napa Valley is a resort in the region and not a winery itself.