November 14, 2017

From Santa Rosa, With Love

Bonterra vines

Photo: Brianne Cohen

Last year my first blog post after returning from the Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi was entitled“From Lodi, With Love”. This year I can’t think of a more fitting title for my first post since returning from this year's Wine Blogger’s Conference (WBC) in Santa Rosa.

I have returned from WBC full. My cup runneth over after spending 5 days in my secret little wine world. I’ve got this whole set of wine friends who my friends and family have never heard of and know nothing about. It really is sort of like this secret double life. Secret tweets. Inside jokes. Late-night sharing of wine labels we drank that evening. It’s actually quite hilarious. It was a phenomenal 5 days and there will be many more posts to come, as I have plenty of wine content to dissect!

As my WBC trip approached, the single most common thing I heard when I told my family/friends I was going to Santa Rosa/Sonoma was some form of “didn’t that all burndown?”. And having been home for a couple of days, I am STILL hearing that from everyone. The news painted a picture of devastation. Charred vineyards, charred buildings, burnt down wineries, and homes with only chimneys and swimming pools left. If you looked through the slideshows of fire pictures online, you’d think that Napa and Sonoma were completely torched.

The Wine Bloggers Conference presented 2 different panels regarding the Napa/Sonoma fires. The first panel, Wine Country Fires, was moderated by Jolaine Collins of Collins Communications. It was an emotional session as the panelists shared personal stories and firsthand accounts of what they saw, felt and experienced. The panelists included George Rose, photographer; Patsy McGaughy of Napa Valley Vintners; and Pierre Bierbent of Signorello Estates. George and his wife lived in Santa Rosa for 25 years, and he found himself in wine country as the fires broke out. He shared images he took as the fires unfolded. Really tough shots to look at. The most difficult part of the session was when Pierre, Winemaker at Signorello Estates, spoke about his experience. He shared how he learned of the fires in the middle of the night and how he made attempts to fight the flames himself. He shared images from what he saw and told stories that brought tears to many of our eyes. Hearing his voice crack as he spoke was sobering for us all. This wasn’t a news segment or a magazine article. These were real people who had real experiences. In the end, Signorello Estates was a total loss.

The second panel was entitled: How Media Can Respond to a Crisis, also moderated by Jolaine Collins of Collins Communications. Panelists included George Rose, photographer; Virginie Boone, Wine Enthusiast; and Sarah Stierch, Journalist. Sarah shared her raw feelings and emotions around the fires as an independent journalist who live tweeted non-stop from the fire zone. She saw firsthand what was happening and the mis-information that was spreading like wildfire (pun intended).

The fires are still very raw for many people in wine country. But they are strong and they are resilient people. There is a space to grieve, yet there is also a space to look to the future.

The biggest takeaway from these sessions is that Sonoma and Napa did not completely burn down and that they are open for business. Yes, many people lost their homes, businesses were lost, wineries were lost, and lives were lost. It is possible to honor and remember, yet also spread the word to encourage people to help in the recovery. What does that look like for those of us who live nowhere near Northern California?

1. Drink Napa and Sonoma wines

2. Join a Napa/Sonoma wine club (a GREAT gift idea in time for the holidays)

3. Come visit!

Here are a couple websites that were shared with us in these sessions:

North Bay Fire Donations: this is a great website that has aggregates a lot of individual information as to how you can help. It includes: where to donate money, where to donate stuff, and where you can eat, drink, and stay to help support recovery in the region.

Comfort Drinks: This is a website that Sarah Stierch started with other wine country residents and beverage industry professionals. Do you know someone who has been displaced by the recent North Bay Fires who loves fine wine, beer or nonalcoholic craft beverages? ​Whether they are moving into a new home or are waiting to do so, we're here to bring a glass of liquid comfort to their lives. Follow the directions on their website and they'll work with their beverage industry donors to provide wine, beer, spirits, and beverages.

That’s all for now. A simple message to my readers: if you are able, please think about making a contribution to help those affected by the wildfires in wine country this past October.

Sonoma is Strong.  Napa is Strong.
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you are looking to Drink Better and Up Your Wine Game, check out my latest virtual wine tasting offerings, including both public and private wine tasting events. For virtual events, my tastings feature a small-format wine tasting set sent to each attendee for a shared tasting experience. What can you expect from a Virtual Vino event? Fun, approachable, interactive, and unpretentious wine education as we share smiles and wine!
Brianne Cohen is a certified sommelier based out of Los Angeles, California.
She has been producing events and weddings for over 10 years in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and also offers her services as a wine educator, writer, and consultant to inspire people of all ages.

Brianne completed the entire curriculum with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and traveled to London in order to receive her Diploma certificate, which is one of the most coveted and difficult wine certifications. Most recently Brianne judged at the International Wine & Spirits Competition and the International Wine Challenge in London.
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