Wine Country Renaissance
The rebirth of Napa and Sonoma after devastating wildfires is inspirational. And in celebration of its resurgence, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite places to revel in the renowned region’s wine, scenery and phenomenal food.
BY KATHY CHIN LEONG, October 2019
A year ago, beginning on Sunday, October 8, 2017, the wine country all but disappeared for more than two weeks in a blinding, choking, searing display of nature’s fury. Simultaneous fires ripped through Napa, Sonoma, and three other counties until Halloween, at the height of tourist season. The worst firestorm in state history leveled approximately 245,000 acres and 8,900 structures.
“Although it seems like a lot was gone, a whole lot was saved by the firefighters. The vineyards served as amazing firebreaks,” Jennifer Gray Thompson, executive director for the Rebuild Northbay Foundation, explains.
Dragging a 300-foot water hose through downtown Calistoga, contractor Richard Dwyer was hell-bent on saving his beloved Francis House in mid-restoration. The developer had fulfilled his wife Dina’s dream of working together: they were in the process of updating this romantic inn within walking distance of downtown.
As it turned out, the dry winds blew the fire in the opposite direction. Calistoga was spared and so was Francis House. Today, visiting The Francis House is like vacationing in Europe. Dina and Richard, your live-in innkeepers, are friendly hosts. Fronting the three story, five bedroom guesthouse is a custom fountain imported from France. Carrera marble, European wood floors, Italian-inspired ceiling medallions and the occasional outdoor black-and-white French movie whisks guests to a bygone era. A swimming pool, fire pit, and intimacy zones are divided by fruit trees and scented bushes. Treats include daily breakfast cooked by Dina herself and afternoon wine and cheese. Guestrooms feature rock walls, white linens and flat-screen TV’s. It’s a labor of love for this couple focused on resuscitating the building that was once the Calistoga Hospital. A full-scale tennis court will soon be ready for anyone who wants to rally with Richard.