Napa Tourism Thrives, Tahoe Suffers Amid Dry Winter

NAPA (KPIX 5) – Tourism in the Sierra and Lake Tahoe is suffering due to the lack of snow this winter. Meanwhile, the Napa Valley is reaping the benefits of an unusually dry and mild season with a huge jump in visitors.

Tasting rooms such as Mark Herold Wines are reporting big crowds, particularly over the past couple of weekends. Business is way up during a usually slow tourism season for Wine Country.

The Hutala’s were in Napa celebrating their anniversary. “It’s like 75, something like that. And it’s very strange,” Jason Hutala told KPIX 5 on Friday.

Normally they choose Lake Tahoe, but not this year. “We love to go up there this time of year, but there’s not enough snow if you just want to go and play,” Hutala said.

In the Sierra on Friday, the slopes were open, but the only snow was manmade. That’s not good enough for the couple from Sacramento.

“Since it’s nice enough this time of year, we decided to go to Napa,” Hutala said.

Some Lake Tahoe hotels told KPIX 5 that they are booking half of what they were compared to this time last year.

Clay Gregory of Visit Napa Valley said, “No snow means that people are going to be more likely to come here than they might be otherwise.”

Overall, Napa is seeing nearly 25 percent more visitors than last winter. January is supposed to be slow around here.

You won’t see wineries complaining about the increased business. “Normally some of our tasting room staff gets a little bored sometimes,” said Hailey Trefethen of Trefethen Family Vineyards. “It’s great. It’s so much fun having people in here.”

“Beautiful and sunny. Just perfect,” said Jennifer Bekin, who was also visiting the region.

This weekend, it will look like a different season in Wine Country. It will also feel like one, with highs in the 70s in Napa on Saturday and Sunday. The only thing missing will be fruit on the vines.

While the spike in tourism is welcome, some winemakers are worried that the warm temperatures this winter could impact next year’s crop.

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