It is 7:32pm on Monday night, October 9th, and I am sitting on my balcony, crying.
I am crying because Napa is on fire. It’s on fire, it’s out of control, people are dying, and vineyards are going up in flame. No, I don’t live in Napa, and I don’t own a winery, and I don’t farm the land, but Napa is my community, in every sense of the word. It’s where I work, it’s where I play, it’s where I dream and watch my friends dream, and see the seasons come and go and feel the highest sense of connection to God this side of my family.
And tonight, my community is on fire.
So many times in the last few weeks I’ve watched other people’s communities get devastated from natural disasters. In Houston, in Florida, in Puerto Rico…and every time I’ve thought to myself, “oh, my God, that’s so horrible,” and I’ve sent my thoughts and prayers, because I felt powerless, like that’s the only thing I could do. But now I know what powerless truly means. Now I know what devastation really means. Now I feel it in my soul, feel it burn me, feel it choke me like the smoke that I suck into my lungs from thirty miles away.
My community. My people. My life. This fire is reminding me what Napa really is. It’s not the Disney-esque tourist-bait, the over-priced Cabernets, the ratings, the auctions, the estates and the Michelin stars. It’s farmers. It’s families. It’s tradition and culture and a pedigree that goes back thousands of years and touches the very fabric of our history and society. It’s about the drink we put in our glass to celebrate the most outrageous acts of love, or to toast the people closest to our hearts, or to represent the blood of some guy who was nailed to a cross just for wanting us to love one another.
Yeah. It’s love. That’s what we do. That’s Napa.
This fire will die out, eventually. It will burn out, and like a scar, the ashes will become part of who we are. Part of the land, part of the soil, part of the terroir that defines the character of the wines we create. I take a certain solace in that; in the fact that, like the land we steward, our tragedy will simply become one more of the many facets of our personality. The fire fades, the smoke clears, the rains come, and eventually a small shoot bursts through the ashes, its tiny green leaves bearing a promise of new life, new growth, a new season, a time to every purpose under heaven.
But right now, at 8:32pm on Monday, October 9th, I’m just crying.