Hundreds of Sonoma and Napa residents who were evacuated from their homes during October’s wildfires found warm beds, hot meals, and sanctuary in local inns and resorts. Now that the danger has passed and evacuation orders have been lifted, these lodgings are offering incentives to encourage visitors to return to wine country.
Alyssia Walden, general manager of Napa’s Inn on Randolph, said that as the wildfire news spread, the staff decided to take in local residents who were evacuated from their homes.
“We wanted to help, so we decided we’d open up the inn to all the evacuees,” she said. “We didn’t charge anyone because we figured we had beds, and they didn’t.”
The 10-room inn was able to house and feed nearly a dozen families and their pets for more than a week.
“The stores had shut down because the power was out but we had already gotten our deliveries, so we fed everybody too,” Walden said. “People had to eat breakfast food, but nobody minded.”
Now that the crisis is over, the Inn on Randolph is offering a “wildfire special” for visitors: Until the end of December, guests receive 20 percent off regular room rates. A portion of sales will go to the Napa Valley Community Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund.
Garrett Busch, a managing partner of Napa’s Meritage Resort and Spa, said that during the first days of the wildfires, the phones rang nonstop with evacuees looking for rooms. The resort’s management responded quickly, housing more than 130 displaced families at a discounted rate of $99 per night.
“Our decision-making was fast and furious,” Busch said. “We started taking in as many people as we could.”
With all rooms completely filled, Meritage executives considered what else they could do. “Nobody had any Internet or power to the north of us. We had both,” Busch said. “We decided to open up one of the ballrooms and set up tables and charging cords. If anybody needed to send emails or get on social media, they could come here, use our Internet, and grab a cup of coffee.”
Meritage Resort is currently offering Napa visitors discounted room rates starting at $160 per night. Ten percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Napa Valley Community Foundation. Its on-site winery, Trinitas Cellars, is donating 30 percent of the proceeds from sales of three wines (a Chardonnay, a Meritage, and a Mysteriama red blend). Purchase them on the web or at the tasting room.
Busch said it’s important that out-of-town guests know that Napa and Sonoma is open for business and eager for visitors. “Winter is always a great time of year to come. Everything is open, tasting rooms are pouring, and right now it’s easy to get reservations at restaurants,” he said.
Many other hotels are joining in the effort to encourage visitors back to wine country. The Hotel Healdsburg, for instance, will donate five percent of room sales through the end of year to the Sonoma County Resiliency Fund. Sonoma’s Cottage Inn and Spa will donate $10 for every $100 gift card sold through December 31. And Calistoga Ranch is offering a complimentary night for guests arriving Sunday through Wednesday, or a third night free for reservations Thursday through Saturday.