No Escape

The 2017 Napa and Sonoma Harvest Inferno has spared no one
No Escape
Sonoma residents survey the damage in Santa Rosa. (Peter Thoshinsky/ZUMA Wire)
Oct 11, 2017

In the middle of the night, the wind howled. Smoke filled the air.

By dawn, the gales had slowed; the air had cooled. For a moment, the clouds of smoke could be mistaken for fog. Until you breathed.

There's no escape from the eerie scent of smoke.

You shower but still reek of it.

You look to the sky, a surreal, hazy burnt-orange glow.

You look at the ground, dusted with ash.

The signs of the fire are everywhere.

Everyone has the same look of shock and disbelief. It happened that fast.

Entire neighborhoods have vanished, replaced by charred rubble, blackened tree trunks and lone-standing chimneys—a surreal scene out of a post-apocalyptic horror film.

At every gas station, lines of cars wait their turns at the pumps. Bottled water, transistor radios and pollution masks are at a premium. Grocery stores look as if they've been looted, shelves empty.

Despite the devastation and confusion, however, communities are rallying. Their fighting spirit is back.

But the reality of the 2017 Harvest Inferno is slowly sinking in.

Most of this year's grape crop had already been harvested by the time the fire began Sunday night, but not all of it. There's still some prized Cabernet Sauvignon hanging in Napa and beyond.

That matters less today as people scramble to reconstruct their lives. It will matter more in the coming weeks and months, as wine is the lifeline in these parts, the economic engine that drives Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino Counties.

Smoke taint may be the final blow struck by the inferno. For yet-to-be-harvested Cabernet vineyards, hope isn't lost yet. But the threat is lurking, and the longer the grapes hang on the vine, and the longer the smoke hangs in the air, the greater the threat.

For now, the fire is on center stage, filling the skies with smoke that chokes the lungs and burns the eyes. But the blaze won't escape California's bravest, who are saving lives and battling it on every front.

Disasters Fires United States California Napa 2017 California Fires 2017 News

You Might Also Like

Turning Tables: MaMou Opens in New Orleans with Charlie Trotter’s Alum Heading the Wine Program

Turning Tables: MaMou Opens in New Orleans with Charlie Trotter’s Alum Heading the Wine Program

Plus, the Capital Grille arrives in Kentucky with a February launch in Louisville

Jan 26, 2023
Bonterra Bets Big on Regenerative Farming with New Line of Eco-Friendly Wines

Bonterra Bets Big on Regenerative Farming with New Line of Eco-Friendly Wines

The Mendocino-based winery has adopted regenerative organic farming on its 850 acres of …

Jan 25, 2023
Michael Martini, Third-Generation Napa Winemaker, Dies at Age 73

Michael Martini, Third-Generation Napa Winemaker, Dies at Age 73

A "larger-than-life" character, Martini was diagnosed with cancer three weeks before his …

Jan 12, 2023
California Wine's Soggy Start to the New Year

California Wine's Soggy Start to the New Year

Multiple heavy rainstorms are flooding areas, washing out roads and triggering mudslides, …

Jan 11, 2023
Kyle and Katina Connaughton Depart Sonoma County’s Little Saint

Kyle and Katina Connaughton Depart Sonoma County’s Little Saint

Co-owners Laurie and Jeff Ubben take sole ownership of the Healdsburg restaurant; plus, the …

Jan 11, 2023
New York City’s Restaurant Week Returns for Its ‘Winter Outing’

New York City’s Restaurant Week Returns for Its ‘Winter Outing’

The dining event runs from January 17 until February 12, featuring 57  Wine Spectator …

Jan 10, 2023