California wildfires putting damper on Wine Country tourism

HEALDSBURG, Calif. (KGO) -- Reports of wildfires in California may be be keeping tourists away from the Wine Country.

Bill Williamson of Williamson Wines says business is off 30-40 percent in the past two months, and especially since the fires in Mendocino and Lake Counties.

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"We are about one-third of what we should be for a normal September/August time frame," said Williamson, who owns and runs the only free tasting rooms in town.

Tourists in his tasting room Wednesday said they had to do research to confirm that not all of California was on fire.

"The perception is that wine country is on fire. And, we're not," said Jenice Bartee, who manages The Flight Deck.

With the full-blown harvest starting just a few days from now in the Dry Creek Valley, the region should be crawling with tourists.

It is not.

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"I thought I would see a lot of devastation but they had to drive me to it," said Sue Malowepzy from Detroit, Michigan. Before coming on this trip, she saw all the television coverage of fires in California and automatically assumed the entire state is on fire.

There are no hard numbers, yet, but the city does expect to see a drop in sales taxes. They're hoping for better results than last October when, after that firestorm, revenues dropped 11 percent.

"We've had fires, then mudslides, then another fire. People think California equals fire country...don't go," said Williamson.

Click here for a look at more stories and videos about the North Bay fires.

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