Oct 14, 2017

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Wine Community Rallies To Provide Aid and Resources to Fire Victims

Mid-morning, October 9, 2017, my cell phone started dinging with notifications like never before.  One right after the other, slightly muffled from being in a pocket inside my purse.  I ran to retrieve my phone, thinking there may be an emergency situation happening at my boys’ school.  Once I had my phone in hand, I was instantly stunned by unbelievable photos and texts from friends:  California’s historical wine regions of Sonoma and Napa were ablaze, and people were fleeing from their homes with nothing but what they had on their backs.  

On October 8, 2017, California resident and photographer George Rose took this shot of the larger than life wall of flames moving quickly towards Santa Rosa. The caption read, “BREAKING NEWS IN SONOMA COUNTY A wall of fire is heading for Santa Rosa. A fire believed to have started in Napa Valley near Calistoga is moving rapidly due to 40 mph dry winds. This photo was taken from River Road looking toward Fountaingrove at 11:30 p.m., moments ago.”

Since the moment I picked up my phone, I’ve been unable to escape the images and stories that continue to flow through my social media feeds; I never imagined it would get this bad.  At one point, I read the fires were moving so quickly, they were burning an entire football field’s length in three seconds – a blazing speed that is truly difficult to comprehend.

The next photo George posted was at 2:17 am, “BREAKING NEWS
The fire is now on the Fountaingrove ridge overlooking Santa Rosa.”

George was still posting and updating the community. Much of the world was yet to learn about the fires, “WINE COUNTRY ON FIRE
Destructive fires now burning across Napa and Sonoma Wine Country are out of control! Just spotted a new fire in the Chalk Hill area. The winds are whipping at 30 mph. This is a view of the power transmission lines crossing over Highway 101 into a substation adjacent to the Vintners Inn.”

Feeling helpless is intensely crushing; however, many of us can help.  As the Wine Buyer at 16 Tons Beer & Wine in downtown Eugene, Oregon, I’ve pulled all of the Napa and Sonoma wines from the shelves (and displayed them front and center) in an effort to encourage wine shoppers to support wine country’s continuing losses by purchasing wines from the affected regions.  I sincerely hope that other wine shops around the country will do the same.

Trying to think of anything I could do for my neighboring state of California and its beloved wine country, I thought, “Buy Sonoma and Napa wines…”

More importantly, California wine industry and association leaders Michelle McCue of McCue Marketing Communications, Ann Petersen of Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley, and Megan Metz of Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association are banding together to create a network which provides aid to the growing number of victims in the California wine community.

Early afternoon on Monday, George expressed his concern, “WINE COUNTRY ABLAZE!
Multiple fires have now spread across Sonoma County. There are at least two burning in the mountains above Geyserville, but the main Fountaingrove burn is advancing westward, and south across Bennett Valley and into Cotati.”

Efforts include fundraising and creation of an online resource where vintners can find and offer resources, such as generators, trailers, lodging and manpower.  This support network provides immediate assistance and long-term aid to victims of the fires ravaging Northern California, and they are calling on the national wine community for additional help.

Tuesday morning, George discovered absolute devastation across Santa Rosa, “THIS MORNING IN SANTA ROSA
This morning, thousands of people are waking up to unimaginable and complete devastation in the northwestern Santa Rosa neighborhoods along Coffey Lane and Hopper Ave. More than 1,500 homes and businesses have been lost to one of the most destructive and fast-moving wildfires this state has ever experienced.”

“Our focus right now is on getting on-the-ground support to impacted growers and vintners to help stave off further damage,” says Ann Petersen, Executive Director of Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley. “We need the entire wine community to support this region with immediate and strategic action.”

Various photos gathered from Facebook show total devastation to wineries in the region. Pictured are Signorello Estate and Paradise Ridge.

Short-Term Help
Vintners in the affected areas have immediate on-the-ground needs, ranging from equipment to experienced manpower.  Priorities include:

  • Water Tanks, as local water resources are scarce and needed by firefighters; those who can provide should immediately email maureen@SonomaValleyWine.com
  • Generators to power cooling tanks and other urgently-need equipment
  • Tractors and trailers to assist with moving grapes, equipment and debris
  • Lodging to house workers, including tents, mobile unites or locals willing to open their homes
  • Volunteer Labor. Experienced vineyard and cellar workers are needed; unskilled manpower is also welcome

The group has created an online form where supporters can list available resources and provide contact information. Resource and contact information will be shared only with members of Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino winegrowing and vintner associations. Click http://bit.ly/2wNVda0 to offer resources.

Long-Term Help
Established community foundations in each of the counties impacted by the Northern California wildfires have created relief funds to provide aid to local fire victims. The group of regional leaders organizing the wine industry support effort encourages those who cannot provide ground support to make a donation in any amount to the following funds:

“The Santa Cruz Mountains AVA wine community is heavyhearted today as we watch the continued impact of the wildfires on so many of our wine country brethren,” says Megan Metz, Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association. “It’s times like these that remind us how important the company of family and friends can be. We have banded together to help our friends as best we can to protect their businesses and livelihoods and will continue partnering on recovery efforts in the weeks and months ahead.

Organizers have created a statewide fundraising campaign called CAWineStrong, and online donations are being accepted at CAWineStrong.com (no www. ).  All cash raised will be divided amongst Community Foundation Fire Relief Funds in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Yuba counties.  Since Tuesday afternoon, more than 150 people have signed up to offer ground-level resources, including trucks, medical aid and supplies, tank space and crush facilities, housing and even offers to pick up and transport people out if they’ve lost their vehicles.

 

Media Contacts:

Ann Petersen, Executive Director
Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley
annp@wdcv.com
(917) 558-3860

Michelle McCue, President
McCue Marketing Communications
michelle@mccuemc.com
(213) 204-4136

Megan Metz, Executive Director
Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association
megan@scmwa.com
(415) 728-8647

 

As fires continued into Friday, George captured these surreal images, “A lone grape harvesting machine works through an Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon vineyard as the aggressive Pocket Fire burns in the mountains above Geyserville.”

George reported yesterday, as fires continued to burn, that chefs have banded together to feed the brave, heroic firefighters, “FEEDING THE FIREFIGHTERS
Many chefs in Sonoma County are in the kitchens preparing meals for the firefighters out on the fire lines. In these photos, Dustin Valette, is breaking down whole chickens at his Valette Restaurant in Healdsburg. Valette has been joined by other local chefs, including Duskie Estes and John Stewart of Zazu, Charlie Palmer of Dry Creek Kitchen, and Todd Knoll, executive chef at Jordan Vineyard & Winery. “

A special thank you to California resident and captivating photographer, George Rose, who shared many of his emotionally striking photos he has captured since the tragic California fires broke out on Sunday evening.  George is a contributing photographer at Getty Images and owner of George Rose Photography.