When the going gets tough, those of us who live in wine country band together. We gather to eat, share bottles of wine and talk about what we can do to help our neighbors. In a place so beloved for its ability to grow just about anything, you can’t help but take part in a culture that nourishes the mind, body and community.
When I went to pick up my brood of chickens from a dear friend who cared for them after I was evacuated by the wildfires, she made sure that I took my fill of pomegranates and persimmons picked from her trees. After I loaded the birds and fruit into my car, her next question was if I would like a glass of wine.
In my home of Sonoma County, many businesses—just like their counterparts in Napa, Mendocino and Lake—operate within the context of taking care of one another. These area wineries are well worth your time to visit, and a way to support those who support others.
Operating from a tiny tasting room in Kenwood, B. Wise has given $250,000 to fire relief funds. Its estate vineyard is across the road in the Moon Mountain district, high atop the Mayacamas Mountain range, and it also sources grapes from vineyards along the Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley and Napa. Come by the tasting lounge open daily along Highway 12, or make a reservation to taste privately at its caves. bwisevineyards.com
Off of Olivet Road in the Russian River Valley, this producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Grenache and Zinfandel wines is waiving tasting fees through the end of the year. They’re also donating $50 for every tasting appointment to the Redwood Credit Union North Bay Fire Relief Fund, Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation or Sonoma County Community Foundation Resilience Fund. If someone makes a contribution to any of those three organizations and references Benovia, the winery will match it until the end of the year, or they reach their $100,000 donation goal. The fundraising is personal for Benovia, whose winemaker, Mike Sullivan, lost his home to the Tubbs fire. benoviawinery.com
The Foley Family
The Foley Family Charitable Foundation and Foley Family Wines gave $225,000 to community foundations and housing support for agricultural workers displaced by the fires. The Foley Family Wines culinary team also shared 500 meals in support of Sonoma Family Meal, which prepares and brings food from local chefs to families in affected communities. Bill Foley owns Chalkboard restaurant in Healdsburg as well as wineries Chalk Hill, Foley Sonoma, Lancaster, Roth and Sebastiani within Sonoma County. ffwsales.com
Epicurean Connections offers catering for events and parties as well as cheese-making classes. Sheana Davis, owner of Epicurean, began cooking meals to donate when the fires started, before quickly realizing she needed more help. Davis reached out to employees of Facebook, whose company chefs soon started sending 5000 meals per day. Alongside Facebook, Kendall-Jackson Winery has donated meals, helping create the No Pay Café/Café Gratis. The Café is still in operation, with Facebook, SF Chefs Fight Fire and Kendall-Jackson delivering meals each week. Davis fills the food orders for local non-profits, and then the Sonoma Kiwanis distributes the meals to different charity organizations. theepicureanconnection.com
Gary Farrell Winery
The fires didn’t threaten this winery on Westside Road in the Russian River Valley, but it has already contributed $10,000 to relief efforts. The Winery will donate $2 for every bottle of wine sold over the phone or through their website until the end of the year. Those donations will benefit the Redwood Credit Union North Bay Fire Relief, and Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation, which is helping to get workers into housing as quickly as possible. garyfarrellwinery.com
Founded in 1858, this multi-generational winery, where Sonoma Valley meets Carneros, fought tooth and nail during the first few nights of the fires, before ultimately losing a family home on its property. If you want to see how a winery becomes a part of California history by sheer grit and wit, look no further. Despite their own troubles, Gundlach Bundschu donated tasting room fees the first weekend they reopened to the Rotary Club foundation. They are also hosting a concert in their Old Redwood Barn on December 11 featuring Olivia O’Brien, of which 100% of the proceeds will go to Napa Valley Community Foundation and Sonoma County Resilience Fund. gunbun.com
Alexander Valley-based Jordan has contributed money to aid housing recovery for farm workers and their families, and supported local education charities and Sonoma Family Meal. Jordan says that proceeds from sales of its wine and olive oil will continue to support many of these endeavors. To learn more about their relief efforts and how to get involved, visit their blog, or visit. jordanwinery.com
The Sandman Hotel
Based in the heart of Santa Rosa along Highway 101, The Sandman has housed displaced people in conjunction with FEMA and Sonoma County Tourism. It will also donate 100% of gift shop proceeds to the Redwood Credit Union Community Fund until the end of the year. sandmansantarosa.com
A popular gathering spot for both their wines and picturesque views, Scribe had flames encroaching on their land from nearby on Arrowhead Mountain. After some tough firefighting, they survived and just finished harvesting their 2017 vintage. The winery will donate proceeds from the sale of its 2017 Nouveau of Pinot Noir to a local nonprofit, La Luz, to help immigrants affected by the fires. Reservations are required to visit. scribewinery.com
Dustin Valette is a widely loved and respected local chef who cooked feverishly for others during the fires. He fed countless first responders, volunteers and evacuees, as did many of his fellow chefs (some becoming evacuees themselves). What makes his story all the more compelling is that his father, Bob Valette, battled the fires as an air tanker pilot. valettehealdsburg.com