Sonoma, Napa vineyards 99% undamaged by wildfires, survey finds

A Wine Business Institute concludes virtually none of the vineyards in the North Bay were affected by the October wildfires, though tasting room traffic and sales dropped.

Preiminary findings indicate 99.8 percent, or 138,937 of 139,204 acres were unaffected, the Sonoma State University-based institute announced.

The figures are based on a survey of more than 200 vineyard and winery stakeholders across Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano, and Sonoma counties, in addition to early analysis of available economic data, and in partnership with the California Wine Institute.

Authors said the public perception from some news coverage that area wineries suffered widespread damage contributed to the drop in tasting room visitors. Seventy-one percent of survey respondents reported an immediate drop in tasting room traffic compared to the same period last year, although this trend started to recover in November, and 62 percent reported a drop in tasting room sales compared to this period last year.

Further, half of respondents reported that visitors from the San Francisco Bay Area increased or remained constant, while visitation from outside California and the U.S. was most affected, and 75 percent of respondents noted online sales are equal to or higher than this period last year.

Beginning in November, however, visitor numbers returned to or exceeded prior year numbers for the same period, and other wine regions in the state reported a significant increase in visitor numbers during this period.

The study also stated calculations based on a 2016 crush report also indicated that 99.5 percent of the total crop value was recovered, and 90 percent of affected wineries and grape growers reported that vineyards would not need to be replanted or replaced, and of those that do, most would be less than 10 acres.

Phase two of the survey, to take place later this spring, will look at how the vineyards are rejuvenating themselves. The Institute will also convene an industry working group for additional quantitative and qualitative analysis, including representatives of the California Wine Institute, California Association of Winegrape Growers, faculty from the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California, Davis, and grower and vintner organizations throughout the North Coast.

Cynthia Sweeney covers health care, hospitality, residential real estate, education, employment and business insurance. Reach her at or call 707-521-4259.

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