Wine Country Fires – Donors and Doers

The week of October 8, 2017, Northern California Wine Country, one of the top producers of wine in the world, experienced devastating wildfires. Over 250,000 acres were burned including hundreds of private homes and wineries. In the wake of such destruction several major companies responded and made generous monetary donations, but the most impressive donations were those of cash, goods and services by the very same victims of the fires – wineries and other individuals in the community – that saw the need to help assist neighbors who fared far worse than themselves.

Bay Area Fundraising Events



-A restaurant-driven fundraiser for Northern California fire relief—culminates in a Gala at San Francisco’s iconic Ferry Building on Sunday, November 19th from 4pm to 7pm. Tickets are on sale now and 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit the Tipping Point Emergency Relief Fund and Restaurants Care.

-Hosted by Liam Mayclem (KCBS Radio’s “Foodie Chap”) and Leslie Sbrocco (KQEDs “Check, Please! Bay Area” Host), the Gala is a fundraiser and celebration to officially bring to a close a week of giving by more than 85 Bay Area restaurants. Guests will enjoy wine from more than 50 wineries across California and the globe, with a total of more than 250 wines to taste, and food by the Ferry Building’s renowned restaurants and eateries.

-The Tipping Point Emergency Relief Fund directly supports low-income communities affected by the devastating fires in the North Bay. Restaurants Care, an emergency assistance fund for restaurant workers formed by the California Restaurant Association Foundation, has dedicated specific funds to support restaurant workers who are affected by the fires.


For more information about ChefsGiving, visit , and follow along on social media for the latest news: @ChefsGiving on Instagram , Twitter , and Facebook .



-A passionate group of dedicated and compassionate people have pulled together to create an incredible evening in Sonoma County benefiting those deeply affected by the devastating North Bay fires -specifically, those without insurance who need the aid desperately. Rise Up Sonoma consists of San Francisco/Sonoma County’s most influential and notable chefs and restaurants who have created an evening of delectable wine, food, and one of a kind auction items, concluding with a sensational concert led by some of music industry’s legendary artists.

-Donations will be distributed to the following charities:

UndocuFund Fire Relief for Sonoma County; Sonoma Resilience Fund; Redwood Credit Union North Bay Fire Relief; Care Relief Fund; Burners Without Borders; Homes for Sonoma; Rebuild Wine Country


Tickets for this exclusive event are available for purchase here.



Women of the Vine & Spirits Foundation

– Their Fire Relief Fund has raised over $33,000 over the past few weeks. They are distributing these funds to the Napa Valley Community Foundation, American Red Cross, and United Way of Wine Country, specifically to assist in relief efforts for these communities affected by the fires. This campaign is still planning on remaining viable in the coming months so please encourage friends to support.

Gary Farrell Winery

– Donated $10,000 to relief efforts. Also, donating $2 from every bottle sold through the website, over the phone or in the tasting room through the end of the year with a goal of raising $20,000


– Owner John Sweazey donated $10,000 to Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance to ensure post-fire support for mentors/mentees affected by the fires.

Vintage Wine Estates

Heart of the Vine was started by Terry Wheatley as a Go Fund Me account to put gift cards for basic necessities into the hands of community members who lost their homes to the wildfires. The Go Fund Me was so successful that they are converting it into a Vintage Wine Estates 501(c)3 to provide continuing support as these people rebuild their lives.

Constellation Brands

In addition to $75,000 + funds raised through the Robert Mondavi Winery benefit concert, For The Love Of Napa, Constellation Brands donated $250,000 to the Fire Relief Fund  which will be going to:  Napa Valley Community Foundation, Redwood Empire Food Bank, and the American Red Cross.  Constellation also sponsored a 2:1 employee match.

Northern California Breweries

– Lagunitas Brewing Company, Russian River Brewing Company and the King Ridge Foundation, along with others in the greater brewing community, are creating signature beers under the Sonoma Pride name with proceeds going to the victims of the fires.

– Lagunitas is also brewing a second beer with Moonlight to be distributed throughout the state of California, and will donate profits from this beer to the Redwood Empire Food Bank. Additionally, one dollar from every beer sold in the Petaluma, Chicago, Seattle, and Azusa Tap Rooms will be donated to Redwood Credit Union North Bay Fire Relief Fund. Lagunitas also made a cash donation of $100,000 to the Relief Fund to help assist those in need.

Hall Wines and Walt Wines

– Hall Wines has raised $200,000 to support victims via the Redwood Credit Union’s North Bay Fire Relief Fund a 501(c)(3).

Charles Krug

– Will be donating 20% of its tasting room sales in the month of November—up to $20,000—to the Napa Valley Community Foundation.  The Winery is naming the initiative the “Thanks. Giving.” effort, and asks those who are able to join in with their partners in supporting the rebuilding effort that is soon to take place across all of wine country and much of Northern California. Elsewhere, the Sonoma County Resilience Fund, the Napa Valley Community Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Mendocino County are all accepting monetary donations to aid in rebuilding efforts and to support those who were impacted by the fire. Additionally, the Redwood Credit Union has set up a relief fund to help individuals in the area.

Bottle Rock

– Will hold benefit concerts with Counting Crows, Michael Franti, Spearhead and Train – all to support North Bay fire relief efforts.

Around the Globe

France’s Château de Pommard will hold a special silent auction during the 157th ‘Week of Hospices 2017 , with all proceeds going to Rebuild Wine Country , a California-based charity founded by wine industry leaders to benefit those affected.



If you are planning a visit to wine country be sure to consider visiting these generous businesses that are donating up to %100 of the tasting fees and wine bottle costs to local assistance funds.



Rickards Winery

Limerick Lane Cellars

Amista Vineyards

ACORN Winery/Alegria Vineyards

Francis Ford Coppola

Peterson Winery

Mill Creek Vineyards

DeLoach Vineyards

Goosecross Cellars

Olive and Poppy

  •  a company based in Napa Valley creating wine inspired accessories for men and women. During the entire month of November 20% of online sales will be donated to fire relief efforts.
  • Support these Sonoma and Napa wineries today and carry home your bottle in this chic 100% canvas wine tote. It comes in PINK, RED, WHITE, BUBBLES screen print.

Benovia Winery

In addition to donations per tasting, Benovia has pledged to match up to $100,000 of the total donations given by Benovians to the following organizations, so be sure to reference Benovia Winery when making your donation.

  • Redwood Credit Union North Bay Fire Relief Fund – Short and mid-term relief for fire victims.
  • Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation – Supporting the region’s agricultural workers impacted by the fires.
  • Sonoma County Community Foundation Resilience Fund – Mid to long-term support for recovery and rebuilding efforts.

How can YOU help?

One of the best ways to support our beautiful, diverse and vast region is to continue drinking Sonoma and Napa County wines from wherever you are.  For a directory of our wineries and to purchase wines directly from them, click here for Sonoma County and here for Napa Valley.

Another way to contribute is to continue to visit the many Sonoma and Napa Valley wineries that are open and happily welcoming guests.  We recommend contacting your favorite tasting room directly, or you can also check in on our Sonoma County Vintners Facebook page for ongoing updates.

If you would like to make a donation, we encourage you to give to the Sonoma County Resilience Fund to address the needs of those impacted by these devastating fires.  The Sonoma County Resilience Fund is managed by Community Foundation Sonoma County to provide long-term relief to those impacted by the fires.  Donations to the Resilience Fund will be used across Sonoma County and will be directed to the areas of greatest need.



This has been a catastrophic week for Wine Country. We in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties have been devastated by wild fires that began last Sunday. I can report my family and home are safe, but we have all been affected. I personally know a dozen people who have lost their homes or businesses. The numbers so far for California’s most destructive wild fires in history are staggering:

  • 11,000 firefighters on the ground battling blazes

  • 40,000 people evacuated

  • $3 billion in damage…and growing

  • 5,700 structures lost… and growing

  • 40 deaths with 88 still missing

The generosity of everyone, however, is astounding. We are all pitching in to help with time, money, and hugs. If you would like to help, here is a roundup of some top organizations from our friends at

I have been supporting two hyper-local groups that are hands-on and filling immediate needs such as food, breathing masks, tents, and toiletries.

The first, #SandwichAngels, was started by my colleague, Meredith Miller Elliott. She wanted to make sandwiches to feed the first responders and firefighters. We kicked off in her home with a handful of volunteers and she is now serving more than 1,000 meals a day! Please support her efforts via

Also, leading wine ladies Kimberly Charles, Beck Hopkins, Tia Butts, and Katie Calhoun started a GoFundMe campaign early last week with a modest goal to help the Petaluma evacuee shelter with cots, a generator, food and clothing. Their efforts have raised more than $50,000 with deliveries to both Napa and Sonoma of much-needed supplies. Still hard at work, please support their efforts

For those in the San Francisco Bay Area, I will be co-hosting a large-scale charity event called ChefsGiving with KCBS radio and TV personality, Liam Mayclem, at the Ferry Plaza on Nov. 19th.  We will keep you updated on how to buy tickets, and if you’re not in the area, how you can support our efforts to rebuild wine country.

Sending love from Sonoma,




Calistoga Wine Growers – Winemakers Roundtable with Bo Barrett

Quite often working in the wine industry, I get a chance to lead discussions about wine with some fascinating people. This year, at the 2nd annual celebration of the Calistoga Winegrowers, I’ll be conducting what I’m sure will be a lively discussion with Chateau Montelena’s Bo Barrett, Brian Graham of Canard Vineyard, Bertus Van Zyl from T-Vine, Tom Eddy of eponymous winery Tom Eddy and Rob Hunter of Bennett Lane.

We will talk about their own wines as well as Calistoga’s unique growing qualities, and guests attending the event will be privy to a complete tasting experience. With each winery and winemaker, our guests will taste the wine and get a first-hand account of the history of the winery as well as the story behind each particular vintage. I’ll hold the usual question and answer session afterwards but the true treat will be the ability to mix and mingle with all of our roundtable participants… even me!

The Winemakers Roundtable will be held Friday, September 8th from 2-4:30pm and seats to this intimate event are extremely limited. Get your tickets here!

Stick around for the second day, the 2017 Calistoga Wine Experience, to have a one of a kind opportunity to taste rare boutique wines, eat small bites fresh off the grill and rock out to the tunes of Lavay Smith and her Red Hot Skillet Lickers. Held in Pioneer Park along the edge of the Napa River, it promises to be a gorgeous way to end your summer.

Hurry and get your tickets to both these events, as they are selling out fast. See you there!




“Wine” Down Summer – End of Summer Wine Picks

The end of summer is a little sad. The sun sets earlier, the kids are either back to school or gearing up for it and it feels like the freedom of summer has ended. But let’s be honest, the weather will still be gorgeous (or hot and humid depending on where you live) for weeks AFTER Labor Day, so take the time to enjoy it! Try these amazing end of summer wines that I’ve selected and enjoy the last days of summer, for at least the next month. 


Riesling and Rosé are sexy sippers and two of the best options for al fresco pairing. Go for Riesling with seared salmon and mango salsa and think pink with burgers hot off the grill.


2015 Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington $22

The Eroica (named after a Beethoven Symphony) from Washington State is one of the country’s best examples of Riesling. With a whisper of sweetness, it’s a refreshingly succulent white. This joint project of Chateau Ste. Michelle and Germany’s Dr. Loosen is an ideal way to celebrate Washington Wine Month in August.


2016 Saved “Magic Maker” Rosé, California $20

Saved is a wine label from tattoo artist, Scott Campbell, and celebrates following your passions in life. This crisp, orange-peel scented, Grenache-based wine is a magical pink to drink year-round as it saddles up to summer fare as easily as cool-weather roast pork with chutney.

Tip: Slushy-style “Frosé” is getting attention, but you don’t need to do anything more than leave the cork (or screwcap) off and put the bottle in the freezer overnight.


Summer Party Circuit

Squeeze in every opportunity to celebrate the waning days of summer with these creative party ideas:


2014  Spellbound Petite Sirah, California $15

Even though the solar eclipse is over, you can celebrate the celestial by sipping Spellbound’s “Eclipse” label Petite Sirah, depicting the cycle of the moon. It’s a savory, full-bodied red that works with meat dishes as easily as chocolate. Give it a try with chocolate moon-pies for a whimsical dessert.


Cheese & Wine Pairing Party

With the long Labor Day weekend coming plan to have an end-of-summer interactive gathering pairing wine and cheese. Have each guest bring a different style of cheese and you provide a variety of wines to taste and mix and match. With this downloadable grid to hand out, it becomes a deliciously fun evening.


We all know how well hearty red wines like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon go with aged, hard cheeses. Even Chardonnay is a star avec fromage, but what about showcasing SURPRISE SIPS that most folks don’t think about when pairing wine and cheese: Sparkling and Sauvignon Blanc.


Korbel Extra Dry sparkling, California $12

From the historic California sparkling wine producer, Korbel, comes a sporty, wave-inspired bottle that makes summer sipping easy. This one has a touch of sweetness that makes it a unique pick to pair alongside salty blue cheese with a drizzle of honey.


2016 Natura Sauvignon Blanc, Valle Central, Chile $12

Hailing from the cool reaches of Chile, this is zesty, dry white with tangy citrus flavors is made with organically-grown grapes. It’s an ideal match with fresh cheeses like feta, goat cheese and ricotta. Serve with a variety of jams like apricot and peach for cheese-pairing perfection.



Whether it’s back to school you’re celebrating or just settling into the fall routine, this duo of Italian wines will take you easily from hot days to cool nights.


2015 Carpineto “Dogajolo” Rosso, Toscano, Italy $15

The Dogajolo from famed Italian winery, Carpineto, is a fantastic value at under $15 and showcases an appealing label evoking images of fall leaves. Pronounced “doga-yolo” the name is inspired by the wood staves used in oak barrels. This smooth, spicy red from Tuscany is the ideal transition wine as it can be chilled slightly to serve on summer days or paired alongside braised meats and soups when fall kicks in.

2016 Carpineto “Dogajolo” Rosato, Toscano, Italy $15

A wine that’s the whole package – beautiful to look at and delicious to taste. This rosato made from Sangiovese (the red grape of Tuscany in Italy responsible for the great wines of the region) will carry you from summer to fall with ease. It’s one of the best new pink wines I’ve sampled all year. At this price, you should buy it by the case!

Summer may be winding down and the kids are back to school, but enjoy the still-warm weekends with some incredible wines that will take you from your summer soiree all the way into your fall dinner parties. And check out the latest fun with Hoda and Kathie Lee on the Today Show!





Must-try Summer Wines: Bubbles, Rosé and More!

Looking for an amazing addition to your pool party, backyard bbq or summertime soiree? Check out my favorite picks then watch my time in the 8 o’clock hour at the Today Show!

Rosé All Day:

Americans have finally discovered the joy of rosé. Drinking pink is one of the hottest trends in wine with double-digit growth. These garnet-hued beauties can be made in myriad styles resulting in wines with a whisper of color or those more intensely pink. Most rosés are dry and crisp, while blush wines and those dubbed ‘white’ (as in white zinfandel) tend to be sweeter. With flavors ranging from delicate strawberry and citrus, to juicy red berry and spice, there’s a pink for everyone to drink.

2016 Minuty ‘M’ Rosé, Cotes du Provence, France $20

Packaged in a curvaceous, sexy bottle, this classic rosé hails from southern France’s Provence area. One of the top producers in the region with a rich history dating to the 19th century, Chateau Minuty is known for elegance, quality, and class. A pale-hued pink with floral aromas and peachy flavors, the ‘M’ is a Marvelous summer sip.

2016 Forty Ounce Rosé, France $16 (one liter)

A bang-for-your-buck bottling, this Gamay-based wine captures the essence of a sunny day in the French countryside, but with an American twist. New York-based sommelier, Patrick Cappiello, joined forces with French vintner, Julien Braud, to create this light-hearted pink that’s high on tongue-in-cheek style.

2016 Summer Water, Central Coast, California $19

A collaboration of Yes Way Rosé and Winc, the Summer Water is an easy-drinking pink that says it all with the name. I prefer to drink rosé over water on most summer afternoons anyway, and this wine pairs with dishes from grilled salmon to fruit salads. (If you join their wine club, the price goes to $15.)

2016 Tablas Creek ‘Patelin de Tablas’ Rosé, Paso Robles, California $24

Who said rosé can’t be a serious sipper? This one most certainly is. Primarily Grenache grapes blended with other Rhone varieties such as Mourvèdre and Syrah, it’s an aromatic, mineral-laden pink. Though Californian in birth, Tablas Creek is French at heart with the famed Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel involved.


Beach Bound or Poolside?

These selections are lower in alcohol than other wines offering quaffable fun in the sun.


Barefoot White Wine Spritzer, California $9 (four pack)

Barefoot Wine is among the top selling wine brands in the world. The reason? Good wine at great prices wrapped in a feel-good vibe.

Everyone wants to dump the shoes and walk barefoot in the sand. Now, you can do it with can in hand. This slightly fizzy tin-of-fun is a blend of Chenin Blanc and Symphony grapes topped with carbonated water, making it an ideal beach companion.

La Grande Courtâge Rosé and Brut, Sparkling Wine, France $7 (per 187 ml)

Want to upscale your outdoor imbibing? Reach for a mini from La Grande Courtâge. A French sparkler made by a Californian, Tawnya Falkner, the brand is an ode to the marriage of French and American culture. It’s a unique option for those wanting to indulge al fresco. Just add a straw, then sit back and relax.

Eppa Red Sangria, California $10

Ringing in at a mere 9 percent alcohol, this super-Sangria is organically-grown red wine blended with organic juices including pomegranate, blueberry, and blood orange. The refreshing red is ideal over ice with sliced fruit. Enjoy a pitcher poolside and let summer begin.


Global Grilling with Latin Flair:

From Spain to South America, these selections bring a little heat to dishes hot off the grill. There are no rules when it comes to pairing white wine with fish and red with meat, but if a spicy shrimp platter or Cajun-rubbed chicken breast is on the menu, reach for one of these two mouthwatering coastal whites to tame the fire.


2015 Ritual Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile $15


A classic pairing with fiery fare is Sauvignon Blanc. This citrus-scented version is made from grapes grown in cool-climate vineyards on Chile’s Pacific Coast. Made by the talented hands of Rodrigo Soto – one of the country’s acclaimed winemakers – the Ritual is a winner for not only warm-weather sipping, but year ‘round imbibing.

2015 Fillaboa Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain $18

For an exotic take on crisp whites, head to Spain’s west coast to sample Albariño. An Iberian Peninsula grape variety, it explodes with orange blossom aromas and succulent fruit flavors. Fillaboa is one of my top-pick producers from the area of Galicia called Spain’s “land of the sea.” Don your shades and take a virtual vacation in a glass.


When barbecue ribs or perfectly-seared rib eye is served, think of these spicy reds to pair alongside.

2014 Clos de los Siete, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina $20

Made high in the Andes by noted French winemaker, Michel Rolland, this Malbec-driven blend combines Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in a full-bodied, dark-fruited red that’s supple and alluring. Still sporting elegance, however, it’s an ideal match for steak, steak, and more steak.

 2008 Arinzano ‘La Casona’ Pago de Arinzano, Spain $40

Want to splurge on your next grilling red? Reach for this exceptional bottling from Arinzano. Noted as one of the top estates—or Pagos – in Spain, La Casona is made with the signature red grape Tempranillo rounded out with Merlot. A lush, age-worthy red, it’s a wine to drink with anything…or nothing at all.


Summer Holiday Celebrations, American Style:

From July 4th to Labor Day, these American wines with a story to tell are ones to share with a crowd.


2016 The Federalist Chardonnay, Mendocino County, California $17.76

With the smashing success of Broadway’s Hamilton, it’s no surprise there is a wine brand celebrating our Founding Fathers and

wine’s role in American history. This oak-kissed, smooth Chardonnay showcases Lady Liberty on the label making it fab for the 4th. The price is what else? $17.76.

2014 Purple Heart Red Wine, Napa Valley, California $20

You can do good and drink well during summer gatherings with Purple Heart. A rich red blend

that’s delicious to sip is one reason to buy the wine, but the other is that annual donations are
made to the Purple Heart Foundation in honor of American military veterans and their families.

Chandon ‘American Summer’ Brut sparkling wine, California $26

Wrapped in a seascape of red, white and blue, this limited-edition bottling from Chandon is a deliciously dry yet fruit-driven sparkling wine. Become part of the #chandonsquad and raise a glass. It’s a top way to toast summer.