Why I Didn’t Want to Visit Santa Rosa for WBC17

I signed up to attend the 10th annual Wine Bloggers Conference earlier this summer, long before the devastating wildfires hit the regions of Napa, Santa Rosa, and Sonoma. As the November conference date approached, I soon became nervous about traveling to the wine country I love and hold so dear to my heart. I was worried to see how emotionally devastating it would be to witness first-hand what was left from raging wildfires that caused the total destruction of homes, lives, land, and vineyards. I seriously contemplated not attending the conference this weekend.

As I drove into Santa Rosa today, the nightmarish smell of charred embers filled the air. Traffic was at a standstill as cleanup crews were busy at work hauling away the piles and piles of blackened debris. Just as I thought “this can’t possibly get any worse,” I ventured deeper into scene after horrific scene of charred earth, fallen trees, burned out family minivans, and incinerated barns.

The absolute worst thing I saw today were the countless lone stone fireplaces and the random swimming pools surrounded by nothing black ash and soot; sad reminders of where someone’s home, where someone’s entire life, once stood.

It was a gut-wrenching thing to see but there was no way to avoid it because large areas were completely wiped out by the flames. The news reports of the fire damage can’t accurately capture the scope of the tragedy, and all I saw today was the aftermath. Imagine the residents who had to look out their back window and watch as flames ravaged their community. It’s almost unthinkable.

After shedding a few tears, I started to realize that just the act of being here is a way for all of us to aid in the healing process. It’s something you can do to help this beautiful community and her equally beautiful people begin to pick up the pieces.

Yes, it’s true that seeing the breadth of this destruction in person is deeply unsettling and wholly distressing. But remember that by taking a trip to Napa and Sonoma counties and shopping in the local stores, visiting neighborhood wineries for a tasting, dining in the town’s many restaurants, and buying wine from the region is what the area so desperately needs right now.

The first step is often the hardest, but my fellow wine bloggers here at WBC17 and wine lovers the world over understand that the wine loving community is one that will always rally to support each other as well as offer aid to those who need us. We all stand #SonomaStrong, and you can help by booking that trip.

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