[Updated October 17, 2017] Many readers, including myself, are extremely blessed. Wine brings joy to many of us, and we have the financial means to procure it without much thought or hesitation. With it we celebrate, we toast, we fellowship with friends. Wine is a catalyst for festivity, merriment and conversation.
We colloquially discuss wine in terms of varietal, region or style. This week, however, we are painfully reminded that each glass is unequivocally defined by people. It represents farmers. It represents families. It represents communities with proud traditions and heritage. People like us; families and communities like our own.
Too many of those who labor tirelessly to produce our favorite wines presently find themselves injured, homeless, and with their livelihood entirely dismantled. A state of affairs that is difficult to fathom.
In lieu of a regular post this week, I am compelled to pause and reflect upon, and to raise awareness of, the devastating wildfires sweeping across Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties of Northern California.
This week, more than a dozen wildfires have consumed an aggregate area equivalent to the city of Chicago, claiming the lives of at least 42 California residents (with many still missing) and destroying over 5,000 homes and business establishments. Nearly two dozen wineries have been damaged or destroyed. Although some of the fires are now contained, there is still much risk and uncertainty.
Wine Spectator has an informative site that compiles firsthand accounts from residents, winemakers and vinters regarding the status of wineries, vineyards and homes. Please read their stories.
Some residents are returning to witness the loss of entire neighborhoods, with their cars and homes reduced to ash. The photographs coming out of the region could easily be mistaken for a scorched earth scene from an apocalyptic Hollywood narrative. Astonishingly, they are not.
Tens of thousands have been evacuated; over 100,000 are left without electricity. The economic impact could be as high as $13 billion per county. The scale of devastation is extraordinary. And certainly no definitive cost can be placed on tragedy that involves loss of life.
In a region infamous for wildfires, this is already one of the top 15 most destructive fires in California’s history, and the deadliest in nearly a century.
We have seen tremendous destruction and loss of life these past few months. Natural disasters do not discriminate. This tragedy isn’t located in a distant country. This is our fellow Americans, in towns much like our own, with families much like our own.
In moments like this, it is imperative that we support one another. Raise awareness. Encourage in any way possible; give financially if you are able and inclined. Above all, generously dispense empathy, encouragement and respect.
Non-profit organizations, such as the American Red Cross, Community Foundation of Sonoma County, and the Napa Valley Community Foundation, and Go Fund Me campaigns have already been established in fundraising efforts for victims of the wildfires. Joseph E. Gallo has pledged one million dollars to relief efforts. Don't have a million bucks to spare? No worries; neither do I, but every donation, whatever the amount, matters. Musings by the Glass will donate to these campaigns, and encourages you to consider the same. Even if you cannot contribute financially, there are other ways to help. Wine Enthusiast generated a great list of ways that you can help, including how to donate food, volunteer, or open your home to displaced families.