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Wine + Peace
Story by Sam Decker

Survival Kit

What can winemakers teach us about resilience in 2021? Everything.

Vinca Minor Jason Charles

If we’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s how much our winemaker community can teach us about the power of resilience.

Having overcome one of the toughest years ever —  from Covid to Trump’s trade tariffs to an unprecedented wildfire season — American winemakers remind us that resilience is not something cultivated through a mindfulness app or on a corporate retreat, but rather is a trait hardwired into those driven by passion and purpose.

Back in the summer, I spoke to winemaker Jason Edward Charles of Vinca Minor (pictured above) as he drove north along Napa’s Highway 29 towards Calistoga.

He’d recently secured a contract for a block of sustainably farmed Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Napa fruit is a milestone for any California winemaker, but a site as special as this one — dry farmed going back to the 1970s on volcanic soils — comes along once in a lifetime. So Jason was understandably keeping a close eye on things as the fire season progressed.

However, the scene out his window was unsettling — orange-tinged light with thick plumes of smoke blanketing the landscape. Fortunately, when we arrived to the vineyard, he found the grapes in pristine condition. The wine now rests safely in his cellar.

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This wildfire season saw winemakers evacuating their homes in the morning and bringing in three tons of fruit in the afternoon. Winemakers signing leases on new facilities while making heart-wrenching decisions to leave whole vineyards unpicked, meaning brutal losses in production and revenue.

 2020 is filled with stories like these. Stories of resilience. And let’s be clear: winemakers are not the only small business owners who have been devastated by these fires. Even so, if we as a society are unable to alter the trajectory of these annual blazes, the American wine industry will be among the first to perish. 

Ultimately, 2020 will be a compelling vintage not despite the hardship, but because of it. I love wine for the stories it tells and for the principles it stands for — and with this in mind, 2020 is shaping up to be not only delicious, but emotionally resonant as well.

To support the ongoing relief efforts, please consider donating to the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund and the Oregon Community Foundation’s Recovery and Rebuilding fund.

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