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The Greatest Threat to the Wine Industry in the Post-Firestorm World

Not that long ago, my main concern was whether Healdsburg and my home would be intact as I drove away and whether we could find clean air for my young children to breathe. In the end, we were incredibly lucky. My heart goes out to those who have lost everything.

As everyone begins to turn toward a return to some form of normalcy, I keep getting questions as to what the effect will be on the wine industry. Of course, for wineries and vineyards that were damaged or destroyed, or crops that were lost, there will be a concentrated, direct effect. But most of peoples’ worries are unlikely to make much of a long-term difference.

Yes, some people will or have cancelled their vacations and visited other wine regions. But our brand is strong – there will not be a detectable shift toward other regions. Yes, there may be some smoke taint, but it will have little to no detectable effect on the industry as a whole. Yes, some vineyards and wineries were lost. And people will miss them. But what is worth rebuilding will be rebuilt and, in the meantime, there will be little to no detectable effect. These issues, in the grand scheme of our industry's economics, are a flash in the pan.

On the other hand, our already intensifying labors issues are only going to get tougher. Some workers are likely to move, if they’ve lost their homes and rents skyrocket. Oh, and a quick aside, I encourage anyone who can to make rental units available at affordable prices to families in need (or free if you can afford it.) Yes, there is money to be made by charging what the market can bear, but try to do the right thing. And, yes, I am not making this request without following my own advice.

The bigger issue, however, is what happens when the rebuilding starts. Thousands upon thousands of structures will have to be rebuilt. Some vineyards will have to be replanted. Of course, many construction crews will come in from out-of-state. Nonetheless, demand for labor is going to greatly accelerate. How badly that will tax our labor pool remains to be seen.

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