Whether you grow it, make it, ship it, sell it or merely drink it, the wine industry is in nature’s crosshairs and it’s impacting all of us.

Two devastating fires in the last three years have impacted this valuable industry and all its supporting industries. We’re at the dawn of a new era and in this month’s “Business of Wine” issue, we take a serious look at some of the challenges we’re facing in Wine Country.

Tourism is one of our most valuable industries, and wine’s future weaves into the very fabric of each popular hotel, restaurant and other hospitality businesses.

Wine tours diminish, grocery outlets decline and restaurants close, along with all the jobs that keep those businesses humming. The monumental impact of the Kincade fire in October last year hit hard for those in the agriculture industry and local farmworkers, who were forced to evacuate since they lived or worked in the fire zone. The result? Workers lost wages—sometimes as much as $30 to $40 an hour during the harvest season, as Karissa Kruse, CEO of the Sonoma County Winegrowers Association, notes in this issue. What’s more, they incur additional costs to evacuate, as well as replace perishables in their refrigerators at home. When the Kincade fire blazed through Sonoma County, more than 110 square miles were charred. Think about that—the entire city of San Francisco is less than 50 square miles!

As devastating to tourism and the inflow of dollars as this reality is, public perception is even more overwhelming. Guests cancel hotel rooms and wedding plans are scrubbed when perception-makers such as The Los Angeles Times declares, “Wine Country has become fire country!”

Our cover story this month, “A New Era,” digs deep into issues that impact businesses in the wine and hospitality industries. Jane Hodges Young reports on the specifics of our natural-disaster prone community and its economic impact on all of us. Her first-hand accounts from hoteliers, retailers and hospitality pros serve as dynamic case studies into not just last year’s calamities, but what all of us in business and government need to consider as we move  forward with recovery efforts.

Is our climate in a state of crisis? In this issue, we take a comprehensive look at climate change and how it’s impacting agriculture. Father-daughter writing team Tim and Mackenzie Carl sit down with experts in the industry to discuss how weather shifts are impacting grape growers and what they’re doing to counterbalance these new realities of fire, rain and flood with new approaches.

There’s a lot of talk these days about the consumer habits of Millennials and their relationship with wine. Judith Wilson’s story, “Wine Warriors,” reports on the industry’s reaction to our calamities and how this generation’s interests (and resources) differ from those of the Baby Boomers. As Judith characterizes it best, wine will need a new “audience” to discover its beauty and all the beauty that surrounds it.

Finally, 2020 is a major milestone for NorthBay biz, as we celebrate 45 years in the business. In this issue, we take a look back at how the magazine has evolved over the decades from Sonoma Business to NorthBay biz magazine. I feel fortunate to be its steward these past two years. Unexpectedly, taking the helm as publisher has sharpened my attention to the issues and opportunities that surrounds us in the North Bay. It’s a privilege to work with such a dedicated group of writers, designers, researchers, marketers and editors. (Thanks, guys!)

I hope you enjoy this month’s issue, and remember to cast your vote March 3 in the Presidential Primary Election! As you pull out and begin review of your absentee ballot, why not pair it with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or lush Cabernet?

Your feedback is always encouraged. Drop me a line at Lawrence@Northbaybiz.com.

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