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Bay Area Wildfires Might Crush 2020’s Wine Crop

Also: Bondage-a-Go-Go calls it quits, and more news to start your day

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Smoke from the Hennessey Fire hangs over St. Helena’s Nichelini Winery
Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

As fire crews gain a hold on the Bay Area’s wildfires, vintners worry that the region’s 2020 crop is ruined

The Bay Area awoke to positive wildfire progress this morning, as Cal Fire says that the three large fire complexes in the area have not shown significant growth, and are largely contained. Thus far, the blazes have combined to consume 800,000 acres (to visualize, think the square mileage of LA, twice over) and destroy 2,000 structures. Seven people are confirmed dead, many more are missing, and thousands have evacuated the area. ABC 7 has a good set of interactive maps of the fires here.

In other good news, forecasters say that movement in the marine layer could improve the region’s air quality sooner than expected, the San Jose Mercury News reports. This is doubtlessly a relief to restaurants that offer outdoor dining, as some, like Mission cocktail destination True Laurel, reverted to takeout only to protect workers and staff from the hazardous conditions. You can track the current air conditions in the region here, and see what’s expected for the day by clicking on the “forecast” tab.

As the Bay Area’s food and beverage industry struggles to right itself, a vintner in Sonoma is saying that another blow is on the horizon. Speaking with the SF Chronicle, Noah Dorrance, the owner of Healdsburg’s Reeve Wines, says that “he can already taste the effects of smoke” on grapes from northern Sonoma County, and says that he expects similar issues in grapes grown in Mendocino County. It’s an issue that could tank all the wine he planned on making this year, as with every grape he’s come across, “you could already taste and smell this ashy, barbecued flavor, kind of like a campfire.”

Most at risk are grapes that are still maturing, Dorrance says, as the longer they remain on the vine, the more likely they are to pick up an unpleasant flavor the industry refers to as “smoke taint.” “It’s been less than a week,” Dorrance says of the grapes he’s already tasted. “It’s only going to get worse.”

And in other news...

  • The Lake Tahoe ski resort that for years has been known as Squaw Valley is dropping that name, with its COO saying “While we love our local history and the memories we all associate with this place as it has been named for so long, we are confronted with the overwhelming evidence that the term ‘squaw’ is offensive,” KPIX reports. A new name will be announced in early 2021, but in the meantime, there are many, many restaurants, bars, and other businesses (including one owned by California Governor Gavin Newsom’s company) with Squaw Valley in their names. Will they follow suit?
  • Napa County has been dropped from the state’s coronavirus watch list. but local and state officials say that indoor wine tasting or dining remains off the table until California’s health officers modify the current order to allow the activity. [North Bay Business Journal]
  • 14-year-old “modern American” restaurant the Presidio Social Club will pivot from a sit-down spot to a marketplace with prepared, to-go foods from a carvery, bakery and bar. [Tablehopper]
  • Reservations app Resy dropped a mighty package of stories about the nation’s Chinatowns this week. Of local note are a piece on Brandon Jew’s restaurants in SF, a six-dish rundown that purports to “Tell The Story of San Francisco’s Chinatown,” and Chinese restaurant recommendations from a group of local notables.
  • SF-based grocery delivery Instacart has settled a lawsuit with its home city over a law that requires it to offer paid sick leave and contribute to health care for its fleet of dubiously-classified workers. [SF Chronicle]
  • 27-year-old San Francisco nightclub fixture Bondage-a-Go-Go — the self-described “longest running fetish dance party in San Francisco” — has closed for good. [Broke-Ass Stuart]

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