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Northern California has a special place in my heart. Not only is this where Jim and I tied the knot in 2010, but this is where I discovered the beauty and complexity of wine. Both love affairs have been going strong a decade now.

While I always return from a wine trip with new knowledge from visiting the wineries and talking to both the winemakers and the marketing teams, this trip revealed something more profound.

The wildfires in October of last year took the lives of 41 people and destroyed 6,000 homes and businesses. More than 10,000 firefighters attacked the flames using air tankers, helicopters, and more than 1,000 fire engines showed up to the fight. These numbers are astonishing! We drove through the Mayacama Mountains where the landscape was blackened and desolate. It was eerie and sad to see how much land was scorched.

When I visited with shop owners in Healdsburg Square, I was told that everyone knows someone affected by the fires. I was easy to see how devastating and traumatic this was for so many families and business owners.

One local told me about a neighbor who evacuated with his daughter, but their dog would not leave because he wanted to stay to protect their goats. The dog not only kept the goats safe but took in several baby deer and protected them all from the fires. The dog received an entire spa day as a reward for his heroism.

#SonomaCountyStrong can be seen on windows, t-shirts, and bumpers. The resilience of the community was stunning, and while their story is a sad one, it is also a story filled with hope, humanity, and vitality.

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