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As the recovery continues from last year’s devastating Northern California wildfires, the iconic wine regions are looking to kick-start their important hospitality and tourism industry with a simple message: We are Open for Business.
The damage to some areas was indeed devastating. In the 22 days from the start of the fires to when they were completely contained, 43 people were killed and thousands of homes and other structures were destroyed. But in this tourism-heavy area, businesses are opening their arms to visitors, saying economic recovery depends on it. “There is a misperception that everything is gone,” said Tim Zahner, chief operating officer of Sonoma County Tourism, but that is not the case. “Sonoma County has more than 1 million acres.” The region has more than 1,200 wineries, and fewer than 10 were heavily damaged, according to a news release from Visit California, the state’s tourism and marketing arm.
While a slew of businesses across the region were forced to close during the fires — either because of evacuations, power outages or fire damage — most tasting rooms have reopened, according to the organization. “Now we need to do our part to help the recovery,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California. “If you’re already planning a trip, don’t cancel — Wine Country residents need your business now more than ever.”