LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - I'd been planning on interviewing Louisvillian Michelle Mandro about her new book "Wine Country Women."
But with the fires that have swept through northern California, some of the questions this week are taking on a more serious tone.
These fast-moving fires have killed at least 28 people and destroyed more than 3,500 structures so far, in one of the more beautiful places in our country.
Mandro has been splitting her time recently between her hometown of Louisville and Northern California. She first arrived in Napa Valley in 2005 to be the Executive Director of the American Institute of Wine and Food, an association started by Robert Mondavi and Julia Child.
She has taken her experience working with vineyards and a diverse group of women of different ages and occupations in Wine Country to create her new lifestyle book. It provides a look inside the women's lives, and also features family recipes and suggested wine pairings, along with beautiful photographs.
Michelle was back in northern California to promote her book (available now for pre-sale at winecountrywomen.com) but plans quickly changed for her with the fires.
Here are my five questions with creator of Wine Country Women Michelle Mandro.
1. The images of the fire have been horrible. Can you describe what it's like to be there right now?
It's surreal. In all my years in the Napa Valley I could never have imagined this beautiful, sacred land would become the victim of such a destructive natural disaster. It's unlike anything I've ever seen or experienced. It's what I would imagine a war zone to be like: destroyed, smoky and abandoned.
2. Since you are so familiar with the industry, how do you think these fires will impact Wine Country?
The impact will be significant. We won't know the extensive effects until the fires are contained, and there's an assessment of property damage. It will take months (maybe years) for communities to rebuild. Destroyed vineyards will be replanted; however, it will take three to five years before they will produce fruit good enough to use in a bottle of wine. As a result, over the next few years, we could see a limited production of wine from some northern California producers, which could result in slightly higher prices.
Furthermore, harvest was wrapping up when the fires hit. There are still wineries wanting to harvest their fruit. The risk to doing this now is smoke-taint, which could be the final blow struck by the inferno. For yet-to-be-harvested grapes, hope isn't lost yet. But the threat is lurking, and the longer the grapes hang on the vine, and the longer the smoke hangs in the air, the greater the threat.
It will take time to rebuild, but wine country is compassionate and resilient, so I'll bet it's done in record time.
3. You have plans to have part of the proceeds go to victims of the fires. How did you decide which organization would get the money?
I chose Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch because they service both Napa and Sonoma counties. Furry and feathered animals are often overlooked, neglected and displaced during these types of crises. I wanted to make sure they were taken care of too.
4. You are already planning a second book. Will the fires change your plans?
My team is already working on the second book which focuses on Sonoma County. The timeline will likely be affected, but we will still plan to release the book in the Fall of 2018. We will be altering our original plan, however, those changes have not been finalized.
5. Where are you right now? And did you have to escape the fires quickly?
I was in the Napa Valley, but relocated to the East Bay of San Francisco when fire conditions continued to worsen. I have plans to be in California until I return to Louisville in early November.