What Happens When the Napa Fires Are Out?

What happens when the fires are out?

Clearly, that depends on what you’ve suffered or not suffered. But the question isn’t directed at any individual or at individuals at all. It is directed at the “Napa Valley”.

Napa Valley is in the business of growing grapes, making wine and selling that wine. It’s in the business of hospitality. Hosting. The key issue for the industry (and the entire community that depends on the successful industry) is demonstrating to potential customers that our doors are open.

Amidst the photos and videos and reports of catastrophe, it ought to be mentioned that the floor of the Napa Valley has gone untouched by the fires. Its restaurants, hotels, and wineries stand ready to welcome back America and the world. And they will.

And while the hills to the east and west are in parts scorched, the wineries that inhabit Spring Mountain, Atlas Peak, Mt. Veeder Diamond Mountain, and Howell Mountain sit largely untouched by fire. Instead, they are fully intact and are currently husbanding the 2017 vintage.

This message of vitality, survival, and carry-on is what must go out far and wide. Carrying this message to the world will be the job of the wineries, the various regional and appellation associations, Visit Napa Valley, the individual wineries and the Valley’s towns and cities. And the delivery of that message needs to start as soon as possible.

From the looks of the media coverage, you’d think that the entire town of Napa had been wiped off the map. But the fact is Napa stands strong. As does Yountville, Rutherford, Oakville, Saint Helena, Angwin and, at this writing, Calistoga. The media needs to know this and the media needs to be persuaded to deliver this message.

There is a great deal at stake in delivering this message. The economy of Napa Valley and the jobs that sustain the economy and community are primarily what is at stake. For the economy, this catastrophic event could not have happened at a worse time. October and November are when the visitors continue to arrive in bulk, buy wine, book rooms, take restaurant reservations and feed the economy. At the moment, most wineries are shuttered not for lack of ability to stay open, but because there is no one to serve and a number of its workers need time to recover.

The income being lost right now won’t be made up. It’s lost forever and there’s very little that can be done about that. But getting back on track as soon as possible is critical.

So, as the first responders and firefighters and emergency medical technicians do their vital work, the industry must begin to formulate its economic recovery communications plan. So many people depend upon it.

What needs to be done?

-Media Press Trips to the Valley

-“Open for Business” Press Releases

-Winery-Directed “We Survived And Can’t Wait To See You” messaging

-“We Are Open For Business” Advertising

-Social Media Campaigns Featuring the hashtag #NapaIsOpen

-Great Promo Videos Meant To Go Viral

-Individual City and Town Campaigns

There is obviously more to it than this, but all these efforts are a great start in getting the Valley and its people back on its economic feet.

There are those within the Valley who will welcome this slowdown. They will say, “see, the wineries survive with fewer visitors”. They will argue, as they always do, that the “Napa Experience” needs to be rolled back, that wineries need to be stopped, that no more vineyards ought to be planted, that hosting visitors is evil. These voices that will come out need to be rolled over and extinguished and shown to be the voices of job-killing prohibitionists that they are.

In their place the industry need to shout loudly and forcefully, “Napa Is Open For Business”.


10 Responses

  1. Adrian Tamblin - October 13, 2017

    Wine Routes newly launched platform may be a helpful resource for would be travelers to build routes and attract tourist back into wine county. We just launched 2 weeks prior to these fires, and were in the process of reaching out to wineries to claim their free business profiles. Once profiles are populated it can become a coast to coast resource that encourages cellar door visits in the impacted areas. The tools exist but we need help spreading the word. Winery participation is going to be key to success. Wineries interested in learning more should visit http://www.wineroutes.com and claim their account. Wine lovers can do the same and start planning trips to wineries they’d like to visit.

  2. Ronald Scharman - October 13, 2017

    Tom, you nailed with this comprehensive “to do” list. The one thing I would add would be a focused digital marketing effort to help sell more wine online that is not solely dependent on tourism to wine country. The “build it and they will come” strategy has its Achilles heel exposed when disaster strikes. Wineries that were not directly affected by the fire will have a lot more wine to sell and wine club members to sign up since they will lose much of October and November traffic. They need to pivot and have a revised digital marketing strategy in place quickly.

  3. Jeff Morgan - October 13, 2017

    Great message, Tom.

  4. tom merle - October 13, 2017

    I would add… start making arrangements for online wine auctions, soliciting participation from both wineries and collectors.

  5. John - October 13, 2017

    I mean. This is not wrong. Just ill conceived. This season is gone. But people outside Napa will have forgotten about all this by next month. Forget about next year. Also, “viral videos” is not a marketing strategy. It’s a wish.

  6. Jstallcup - October 13, 2017

    I live in Napa and was there for the fire. I am in Paso listening to “refugees” from Napa complain that Napa hotels are telling them not to cancel their reservations because their hotel rooms are safe, when the air is unbreathable. The
    visitors go online and see that the public health advisory to wear a mask when out doors and not to exercise at all out doors including walking. Not a positive PR move. Some hotels are refusing to not charge for the room cancellation. This will back fire bigtime.

  7. Christian - October 14, 2017

    Tom, I could not agree more!! Bravo for saving this and helping spread the message!

  8. Anthony Poston - October 14, 2017

    Great article! We are getting our whichwinery.com team organized to dedicate marketing efforts to support our Napa and Sonoma winery friends and colleagues. We’ve already started outreach to our consumers and social channels to plan and share trips via our platform. Wineries can claim their wineries (for free, of course) and keep everyone up to date on their operating hours and dates (as we know that is in flux for many wineries as they gear up to reopen) along with a chance for them to share their story, what makes them different, awards they’ve won, etc. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone impacted in this tragedy.

  9. Lisa M. Saunders - October 17, 2017

    Thank you, Tom. Even those of us who lost much of our winery/hospitality experience are flush with wine from previous (and most of the current) vintages. We are full of hope and imagination to rebuild. And we are born for food and wine and hospitality. #NapaIsOpen

  10. Megghen - October 17, 2017

    Bravo Tom. We are indeed open and ready to share our gracious hospitality.


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