Face of California Wine Is on Fire, Threatening $50,000 Grapes

Wildfires tore through northern California’s iconic wine-growing regions of Napa and Sonoma, damaging some of the most valuable vineyards and wineries in the U.S. and leaving vintners dumbfounded.

“We are all in shock and trying to help our fellow growers and neighbors where we can,” said Heidi Soldinger, a spokeswoman for Napa Valley Grapegrowers.

While California’s coast accounts for a relatively small percentage of U.S. production, it is the most valuable region in the country, said Stephen Rannekleiv, a beverage analyst at Rabobank International. The lion’s share of grapes in the state are grown in the San Joaquin Valley, where cabernet sauvignon grapes go for about $400 a ton. By contrast, the same fruit from Napa Valley usually costs closer to $7,000 a ton, and can sell for as much as $50,000. High-end wines are driving demand growth in the U.S., with bottles priced over $10 seeing the biggest gains, Rannekleiv said.

“That’s why it’s so devastating — so much of the value is created there, and incredible investment has gone in there,” Rannekleiv said by telephone. “It’s the face of the California wine industry.”

Six Fires

Six fires were simultaneously raging across the region on Monday afternoon, covering a total of about 60,500 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. None of the blazes had been contained as of 2:40 p.m. local time, CalFire spokesman Will Powers said by telephone.

The fires tripped several high-voltage power lines and left about 99,000 utility customers without power as of 4:30 p.m local time in Napa and Sonoma Counties, according to PG&E Corp. The utility also turned off gas service to about 26,000 customers in Santa Rosa, Yountville, Napa and Kenwood, spokeswoman Andrea Menniti said in an email statement.

Parts of three counties — Napa, Sonoma and Lake — have been evacuated. It’s too early to tell the scope of the fire and the extent of the damage to the area, although pictures flooded social media showing burned down buildings. Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa was among those that burned down, according to a Facebook post.

“All of our focus right now is putting out these fires,” Powers said. “I don’t have any information on what was affected and what wasn’t in the winery region.”

The harvest in Sonoma and Napa counties is mostly finished, said Daniel Sumner, an agricultural professor at the University of California at Davis. Still, fires can damage any grapes yet to be collected and can also destroy the vine plants and wineries, he said.

“It’s bound to be a significant and substantial impact on the high-quality wine industry,” Sumner said.

Constellation Brands Shuts Napa Wine Tasting Rooms as Fires Rage

Sonoma County Winegrowers estimates that 90 percent of the county’s crop has already been harvested, but there are still winegrapes that were scheduled to be picked in the next 10 days, according to Karissa Kruse, president of the group. Damages are still being assessed, and reports of fire damage to wineries, businesses and homes are mounting.

Vine Damage

Sonoma has about 1 million acres, and 6 percent of that is grapes, Kruse said. Sonoma and Napa together produce about 10 percent of California’s wines.

Even in vineyards where all the grapes have been collected, there’s the possibility of fire damage to the vines themselves, said Jess Koehler, co-owner of La Finquita Winery in Ramona, outside of San Diego in southern California.

“It takes at least 3 years minimum to get a crop that you can actually do something with — the more mature the vine gets, the higher quality the grapes, the higher quality the wines,” Koehler said. “It could have a real long-lasting impact for everybody up there.”

Some vintners don’t have details about damage because they’ve been evacuated and can’t yet return to their properties, Rannekleiv of Rabobank said. While anything in tanks should be safe as long as the winery isn’t affected, crops that haven’t been harvested are at risk of both burning and smoke taint, which affects flavor.

“Anything left on the vine is at risk of being damaged by the smoke,” Koehler of La Finquita Winery said. “It’s going to be a waiting game to see, when it’s all said and done, what the impact is, but we’re not just talking about the vines. It’s going to be barrels upon barrels of wine, several years old, all their bottle stock. It could completely take them out for years.”

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    After Instagram Censored Her Photo, Mom Speaks Out About Body Image

    A series of intimate and colorful photos are helping to shed light on one mom’s struggle with postpartum body image.

    Mom Desiree Barnes posed covered in paint for the Body Joy Project, an initiative from artists Chloe Allred, Gabriela Ayala-Cañizares and Charlotte Dean. “They want to change the way our culture thinks about the body,” Barnes told The Huffington Post.

    James Dean/Body Joy Project

    “They are fighting to reclaim their own bodies,” she added. “Their work explores body shame, body joy and everything in between the whole beautiful mess of being a person. They are interested in investigating and raising awareness to the influences that either support or diminish our own self-image.” 

    Barnes told The Huffington Post she got involved with the project after reconnecting with Dean, who was an old friend. “Charlotte and I had been admiring each other’s work on social media,” Barnes explained. “She asked me if I wanted to be painted for the Body Joy Project, and I said yes!”

    The photo shoot took place in the spring of 2015. Dean covered her friend in a safe finger paint, and her photographer father, James F. Dean, took the pictures.

    For Barnes, the experience was emotional, as she was dealing with some body insecurity after giving birth to her first son, Fox, in 2013.

    Jim Dean/Body Joy Project

    “My relationship with my body, like everyone else’s, is a complex one,” the mom said. “It has changed so much over the years. Now that I have baby Fox, I look at my body in a totally different way. I am amazed by all of its natural functions the nurturing and feeding of another human being from one’s own body is a trip!”

    Still, she added, “Not to say I don’t have those moments where I forget everything I have accomplished in these last couple of years and look in the mirror and go ‘eeeeew!’”

    The Body Joy Project founders shared photos from Barnes’ shoot on Instagram, and other body image and motherhood-focused accounts have reposted images. When the 4th Trimester Bodies Project posted and reposted one particular photo from the series, Instagram reportedly removed it multiple times.

    When Barnes learned what was happening, she decided to post it on her Instagram channel as well. “I immediately reposted the image because I felt like I had already overcome my feelings about the image, and to have them remove it felt so unfair,” she said. Other groups like Take Back Postpartum, Tribe de Mama and The Art of Birth posted the image in support and solidarity as well. 

    “I was initially nervous to post this image because we had taken all of these photos where I felt like I was ‘beautiful,’” Barnes told HuffPost. “And then we came to this one image in particular and it really took me a minute it felt raw and it was hard for me to look at it.”

    “I had to look at my body, I had to look at my curves, I had to look at where I had been carrying life for nine months, and it looked so different than any body I had ever known zoomed in!” she continued.

    Jim Dean/Body Joy Project

    “The Body Joy Project is about connecting with your body in a personal way,” Barnes explained. “They believe that improving the quality of our lives is tangible, it just takes practice. We don’t just want to survive, we want to live.”

    Now that Barnes has given birth to a second son, she continues to face the same struggles but maintains a positive attitude.

    “I may not always like the way my body looks right now, but I respect it and love it for everything that it is and does for my family and myself,” she said. “This is what I want other mamas to take from this picture, that we are in it together, we have to support and uplift one another. I’m pretty sure we all feel this way sometimes.”

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    Belgium rocked by high-profile cases of racism

    Belgium’s media and political class on Friday called for change after two high-profile cases of racism rocked the kingdom, raising troubling questions about white attitudes a few weeks before local elections.

    The incidents involve Cecile Djunga, a weather presenter with state broadcaster RTBF, who published a video online this week after more than a year of racist abuse; and a report by VRT television about a Flemish far-right group whose leader has warned members to “be ready for combat.”

    Both made headline news across online media and in the national press on Friday. The daily Le Soir’s front page was black, with white text denouncing white attitudes to people of different ethnic backgrounds and foreigners.

    Its chief editorialist wrote: “We can’t kick this into the long grass anymore. Cecile Djunga’s cry for help and the VRT report make it clear: great danger lies ahead and it’s urgent to respond.”

    Djunga, who is also a comedian, explained that she decided to go public after a woman called her at work to tell her that she does not look good on television, that she’s “too black.” Her employers say they are taking a stand against racism, too.

    VRT’s report focused on the Flemish nationalist “Schild en Vrienden,” or Shield and Friends in English.

    Photos of leader Dries Van Langenhove holding an automatic weapon have appeared on social media. Van Langenhove, who has made references to a “war of races,” has also appeared in pictures online alongside Belgium’s hard-line migration minister, Theo Francken.

    Francken told RTBF Friday that he was shocked by the report. He said he knew of the group, “but I didn’t know that there were such extreme elements in this organization.”

    Asked whether his migration policies contribute to such attitudes, Francken said: “Racism is for idiots and all those people who think I’m a hero and who do these kinds of things, write these kinds of things, are idiots.”

    Prime Minister Charles Michel said he condemns “all forms of racism and extremism. There’s no place in our society for this kind of attitude.”

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    Actress Hari Nef on 'Assassination Nation,' Social Media and What's Next (Exclusive) – Entertainment Tonight

    Entertainment Tonight

    Actress Hari Nef on 'Assassination Nation,' Social Media and What's Next (Exclusive)
    Entertainment Tonight
    It's fitting that someone who gained notoriety on social media — perhaps with much more self-awareness than many of her peers — is now one of the stars of Assassination Nation. “The film illustrates the idea that social media is an interface that can

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    Fifth Harmony is giving fans the gift of emoji with their new album

    Image: steve granitz/getty

    The new Fifth Harmony album is upon us, and dancing in your bedroom while you get ready to get into trouble will never be the same.

    To celebrate the 5/27 release of 7/27 (named after the day the group formed), Fifth Harmony is unveiling a custom Twitter emoji that will appear every time you use the hashtag #727OUTNOW.

    The band talked about the 7/27 emoji in a statement to Mashable.

    Twitter has allowed us to build our collective voice as a group, and become the place where weshare exciting news & announcements,new music & videos.More importantly, Twitter gives us adirect line to our fans: it’s the place we talk to fans and share our lives. We are so excited to be working with Twitter on our new release and can’t wait to show the Harmonizers our 7/27 emoji and see how they use it – we hope they love it as much as we do!

    The emoji is a great way to connect with other humans if you happen to be working from home.

    Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

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