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To California with Love

By | March 11, 2018
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Last fall, the wine world was brought to its knees as new images of massive brush fires in Napa and Sonoma counties played in front of our eyes daily.

For me, this was the first story that unrolled in real time on social media each day and then was retold on the national news at night. The wine country in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake and Solano counties was ablaze. Dramatic photos of the winery at Signorello Vineyards burning to the ground fed fears that many wineries along Napa’s Silverado Trail or nearby Atlas Peak were in the path of the fires – Tubs, Atlas Peak and Nuns – that were the most destructive.

It was not the sheer size of the blaze or the images of the structures burning or the economic toll still yet to be realized. It was, and is, the human interconnections. I was consumed by the social media side for the very first time, as it was real-time information about the people we do business with, the families we support and the people we love. Phone calls, emails, tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram images all helped create a narrative that was chilling and brought many of us to tears daily.

Human Toll

From migrant vineyard workers to those who run tasting rooms to chefs to the hotel concierge, the fires did not discriminate against anyone. They were not kind to entire communities of people who worked in the wine business. Then one day I read about Kai Logan Shepherd and his family, who were trapped by the Atlas Peak Fire. Fearing for their lives, the parents put Kai and his sister in the family pickup truck and Dad and Mom tried to outrun the fire and get to safety. The truck was consumed by the fires and they headed out on foot to escape. Both Kai and his sister lost their lives that night. Kai was 14. This touched me in a way that no other news has in my life. That could have been my son Jacob and my family. I still have not recovered from this loss of people I don’t even know, and as I type this the tears for the Shepherd family flow.

Fear and profound sadness has turned to resilience, told in stories of heroism and selfless generosity of people who helped save others’ homes as they watched their own burn, or offered a spare bedroom or couch to strangers in need. This fueled our need to lend a hand and so we did. 100% from the 305 was a charity event that took place on Oct. 29 at Wolfe’s Wine Shoppe. Buoyed by our friends from Seven Dials, Edge Steak & Bar at the Four Seasons, Michael’s Genuine Catering, Juniors Catering and many distributors and corporate underwriters, Miami came together to eat great food, drink great California wines and raise over $15,000 for the Napa Valley Community Foundation Disaster Relief fund. My heart was finally feeling a touch better.

Impact on Wines

The effects of these fires will be felt for years. Everyone is concerned with the wines of the 2017 vintage and what will happen. It’s too early to tell and we will not know for at least 12-18 months. Some production will be lost, and some may have been affected by smoke or the lack of electricity. Many, many families will be honest with the public about what they produced from the vintage when the wines are released. This is not the first time that fire has affected a vintage and they have learned, as most of us do as kids, that honesty is the best policy.
How can you help? Keep drinking California wines … no matter the label, go to California wine country and be generous. There are still plenty of beautiful places to go and explore. They are #NapaStrong, #SonomaStrong. We are still paying attention!

Where to Donate

If you want to help financially, make online donations to:
Napa Valley Community Foundation
Community Foundation of Mendocino County



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