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California Fires: Upcoming Charity Benefits and Happenings

A calendar of events benefiting fire victims and ongoing efforts you can contribute to
There has been an outpouring of support and solidarity in California since the fires devastated the region.
Photo by: Napa Valley Vintners
There has been an outpouring of support and solidarity in California since the fires devastated the region.

Ben O'Donnell, Emma Balter
Posted: November 14, 2017

Updated Dec. 11

Two months after the devastating fires in California, the wine and restaurant industries have stepped up to help victims, organizing events throughout the months of November, December and beyond. Wine Spectator is providing regular updates of charitable efforts to aid recovery in the region, which have included initiatives from bold-faced names like chefs Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Danny Meyer, Dominique Crenn and Tyler Florence.

This roundup features a listing of ongoing wine-and-food-industry efforts, many of which you can contribute to remotely.

Ongoing Charity Efforts

Dozens of wineries, breweries, distilleries and restaurants around the North Bay are donating proceeds from sales at their tasting rooms and tables to various fire-relief charities. Find a running list of participants at the North Bay Fire Donations website.

OpenTable Partners with Danny Meyer, Daniel Boulud and Others on National Wine-Sales Fund-Raiser

On Nov. 13, OpenTable, an online platform for making restaurant reservations, announced the "Let's Raise the Glass" campaign, in which restaurateurs are pledging to donate a portion of California wine sales throughout the months of November and December to the Sonoma Resilience Fund and Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund. The idea was conceived by the management of Charleston Grill, and other participants include Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group and Daniel Boulud's Dinex Group.

"Our heart goes out to our wine country family, friends and neighbors impacted by the recent fires. The holidays are both a time to celebrate as well as lend a hand to those in need," a representative for Oakland, Calif.'s, Michel Bistro told Wine Spectator. You can search for participating restaurants at LetsRaisetheGlass.com.

The Napa Valley Community Foundation (NVCF) revived the Disaster Relief Fund it established for the 2014 Napa earthquake. The NVCF is coordinating with the Napa Valley Community Organizations Active in Disaster, a coalition that the foundation put together to help nonprofits efficiently communicate and act together in an emergency. The groups are also working with local governments and other leaders in the nonprofit sector. Donations to the fund can be made at NapaValleyCF.org.

Other funds for affected counties were established to aid recovery, such as the Sonoma County Resilience Fund and the Community Foundation of Mendocino County.

The California Association of Food Banks told Wine Spectator that the following food banks are helping with recovery and are accepting donations: Redwood Empire Food Bank, Community Action of Napa Valley Food Bank, SF-Marin Food Bank, Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, Yolo Food Bank, Fort Bragg Food Bank, Yuba-Sutter Food Bank, Alameda County Community Food Bank and California Emergency Foodlink.

The Women of the Vine & Spirits Foundation announced that it is setting up a relief fund of its own, where 100 percent of the proceeds donated will go to the Red Cross of Northern California, the United Way of the Wine Country and the Napa Valley Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund. Donations can be made at WomenoftheVine.com.

The Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation has partnered with Direct Relief, creating a fund-raising page on the DirectRelief.org website where people can donate to the organization.

The Redwood Credit Union Community Fund has set up a North Bay Fire Relief Fund, in partnership with The Press Democrat and California State Sen. Mike McGuire. You can donate directly at RedwoodCu.org.

The ride-hailing app Lyft and the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley have partnered to offer reduced-fare taxi rides to tourists visiting the area. "Lyft stepped to the plate as a solution for attracting people for day trips to our wine region and offers the opportunity to support our economy and participate in fund-raising efforts championed by many of the participating wineries," said Ann Petersen, executive director of the winegrower association, in a statement.

From now through the end of December, the code LYFT2DCV will get you $10 off your first five rides in the Bay Area and Dry Creek Valley.

When Life Gives You Unusable Wine Grapes, Make Wine RayZyns

The wine-country fires were especially cruel to Mount Veeder Cabernet haven Segassia Vineyard. Owner Andrew Cates reported to that some 30 to 40 percent of the vineyard burned, and "our entire [2017] crop was destroyed for winemaking purposes due to smoke damages."

But Cates isn't just a grapegrower: He's also a raisinator, as founder of Napa-based health snack business, the Wine RayZyn Company. "The wildfires ruined the flavor of winegrapes—there’s possible smoke taint, [which would] affect the aromatics of the finished wine in the future," Cates said via email. But—"the grapes were unusable for winemaking purposes only." We bet you can see where this is going.

As Segassia is hardly the only vineyard to lose its crop this year, Cates is taking the idea beyond his property. For the Rescue RayZyns project, he's hoping to get more than 100 tons of grapes for CabernayZyns (chocolate-covered and neat). Cates is attempting to raise $500,000 (using GoFundMe) to fund the processing and distribution of Rescue RayZyns and partnering with the Food Recovery Network to harvest smoke-damaged grapes. Then, a portion of proceeds from the Rescue RayZyn sales will be donated to California fire-relief charities, as well as victims of hurricanes Harvey and Maria.

Additional reporting by Kim Marcus and Victoria Sadosky

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