Valley of Ashes
213,000 acres burned into nothingness
That's bigger than the city of Chicago (150,000 square miles).
The Napa fire completely devastated the area in October of 2017. Roads were closed for weeks, firefighters and aid workers flooded in from all over the world to fight what was one of the worst fires in U.S. history. Lives were lost, communities incinerated, and now the region is slowly rebuilding.
I was in Napa on a trip for my birthday just 16 days before the fires broke out. The valley was warm and green and harvest season was in full swing. It was a trip that I knew I'd remember for the rest of my life. I came home, bought stacks of wine books, and pored over them a new rigor and enthusiasm. The trip was full of new friends and precious memories.
I went back to Napa this past weekend. The roads had just been opened three weeks prior and slowly, tasting rooms welcomed guests again. Driving through the valley on Saturday morning, I watched the sun burn through rolling fog over charred hilltops looking down into the green valley, now turning with the season in smatterings of reds and yellows. It felt incredibly somber - but I was incredibly happy to be back.
Napa Valley is a beautiful place - not just because of its natural features and of the wine, but because of the spirit that lives in the people there. In the grand scheme of the wine world, it is incredibly young. A few pioneers braved all odds to plant and cultivate grapes to produce arguably some of the finest wines in the world all within my parents' generation. The beauty of Napa is in the hard work and perseverance of its people. The valley mirrors back this resilience in the way the vines continue to grow despite the ash and smoke - despite this, the vines slowly continue their cycle and slip into dormancy, and the people on Napa Valley press on.