Open for business: Sonoma County wineries are a beautiful autumn destination

After the big Napa and Sonoma fires of 2017, it took about a year for the wine tourism business to fully recover; a key element of the North Bay economy.

Northern Sonoma County has 400 small, family owned wineries.

Big corporate owned wineries often distribute nationwide or worldwide and can easily weather slow periods.

But, tiny family wineries such as the remarkable Fritz Underground Winery in Cloverdale depend entirely on visitors to taste and buy wine on their winery grounds.

"We don't have a method, you know, to hit the market or go to the stores directly. If it doesn't get sold here, in many cases, it doesn't get sold," said Clay Fritz, owner and worker at Fritz Underground Winery.

Tourism Season

This is the peak of the peak of the tourism season in Wine Country.

And the Kincaed Fire which started just ten days ago did grievous damage to the economics of the family owned wineries in the area.

"A couple weekends during this time of year is worth a whole month, you know. Or two months during the winter time," said Fritz.

When most of these wineries lost electrical power, they also lost the juice from the just picked grapes, which will put a huge dent in the 2019 vintage. 

Family-owned wineries such as Windsor's Christopher Creek Winery have invested heavily in tourist accommodations to enjoy the still spectacular vistas.

Though inventory from previous vintages is available, without visitors, their income is essentially cut off as well as to much of the greater community.

"You're staying at one of our nice hotels, you're eating at our amazing restaurants. You're walking around our shops and, of course, yes, you're probably going around to our tasting rooms during the day. So, you've got to thing about all the people who are depending on that," said Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppino.

Hafner Winery, on Healdsburg's Pine Flat Road, dodged two bullets.

First, the fire did not consume the property. Second, the Jackson Family's Fieldstone Winery, lost in the fire, lent their generator to Hafner; an act the Hafners call a miracle.

"Our daughter called her good friend Ari Jackson who said, 'if it's there, take it.' and, thankfully, now were back up and running," said Parke Hafner, Hafner Vineyard Winemaker.

Wine Country is a beautiful drive to a beautiful place. With nice beautiful days and cool, crisp evenings, the vineyards are gorgeous because they're turning, or starting to turn colors.

"As far as I'm concerned, this is kind of my favorite time of the year up here," said Hafner.

If the drive is too far, almost all the family-owned wineries have websites so you can order online. But you will miss the serene scenery of fall in Wine Country.