I’ve had the privilege the last week of shepherding some dear friends on their first visit to Sonoma County. 

They both work at a high-end restaurant outside of Toronto, Canada, he as a sommelier and she as the manager, so a visit to such a wine and food mecca as our area seems natural, though neither had been to California before. 

Heather Bailey column photo

Heather Bailey 

As we’ve worked our way around tasting rooms, dining rooms and parks, I’ve tried to show them the wide variety of offerings here; from tiny tasting rooms in converted shacks to huge estates with marble floors, we’ve shown them both side of the local wine offerings.

Similarly, we’ve dined across the spectrum — prices, sizes and cuisines. In Healdsburg, we enjoyed hearty lunches at Kinsmoke and El Farolito (including a first experience of Racer 5). They strolled around the Plaza, charmed by Mr. Moons and Levin and Company, picking up gifts for family and friends back home.  

The fall has been a stressful one for my family and I, as we’ve struggled to recover from the property damage and emotional fallout of the Kincade Fire, but going around with my friends has been a wonderful reminder of why we live here and all the amazing things we have to offer.

My friends had made their reservations to visit before the fire, so cancelling wasn’t an option, even though our household is not completely back up and running yet, specifically our well, meaning water conservation is an ongoing theme. 

At one point as we were laying round full of good food and good wine I believe I said, “Come visit Heather and John, you can’t take a shower but we’ll feed you and get you tipsy” to fairly riotous laughter. 

Because it is still so fresh in my psyche, I’ve tried to refrain from pounding the fire into them again and again, but its been nearly impossible to not do “fire tours” and show them the devastation of 2017 and now. But, through their eyes, I’ve found it easier to see beyond the dead trees and blackened — now greened — hillsides. 

Its been a nice reminder, to see all the positives and not the negatives and to show the best of what my home has to offer, even if admittedly it’s not quite the LA-style sun-drenched movie California they were necessarily expecting. 

Our company is heading out tomorrow, off to visit another friend who lives in Napa and see the sites of San Francisco before flying home to the snowy climes of eastern Canada. I will miss them, but I will try hard to keep seeing things through their eyes for a little bit longer. 

To see the beauty that remains, and not just the damage. 


Heather Bailey is the editor of the Tribune’s sister paper, the Windsor Times.

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