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Star Chefs Rally to Benefit California Wildfire Relief Efforts

"A Night of Friendship & Fellowship" in Napa Valley on Dec. 2 will support recovery efforts in wine country
Thomas Keller and his French Laundry team will join other star chefs to help wildfire victims.
Photo by: Alanna Hale
Thomas Keller and his French Laundry team will join other star chefs to help wildfire victims.

Kim Marcus
Posted: November 14, 2017

Four of California’s top chefs will be serving a lavish four-course dinner as part of a charity fund-raiser to benefit relief efforts in the aftermath of October’s devastating wildfires in California wine country. "A Night of Friendship & Fellowship" will be held the evening of Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley.

Chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry, Christopher Kostow of the Restaurant at Meadowood, Kyle Connaughton of SingleThread Farm and Stephen Durfee of the Culinary Institute of America will join forces to present the meal, which will be paired with some of Napa and Sonoma’s top wines.

"This is an inclusive event and really about the idea of the two valleys working together. There will be library stock poured from each of the wineries participating from Napa and Sonoma," said Matt Wilson, owner of the Napa-based Company Fine Wine and an event organizer.

Also on tap are live and online auctions of top wines, and other luxury lots. Wilson added that auction lots are coming from overseas as well. "There’s going to be a super lot of large-format and special vintages direct from leading French producers," such as Châteaus Margaux, Cheval-Blanc and Palmer of Bordeaux, Domaine Dujac and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti of Burgundy and Jean-Louis Chave of the Rhône, Wilson explained.

The driving force in organizing the event, according to Wilson and Gott, is Keller. "When Thomas Keller calls, everyone pays attention," Gott said. "That really was the impetus to get things going."

Leading figures of the local wine and food world have joined the host committee, including Barbara Banke of Jackson Family Wines, Tim Mondavi of Continuum, Naoko Dalla Valle of Dalla Valle, Shari and Garen Staglin of Staglin Family Vineyards, Jean-Charles Boisset and his wife, Gina Gallo, Laura Cunningham of the French Laundry, Agustin and Maca Huneeus and restaurateur and vintner Joel Gott, among others.

Gott’s father-in-law lost his house to one of the fires, as did an employee of Gott’s; and Gott’s Roadside, his restaurant in St. Helena, was closed for a week after the fires. Gott says one of the biggest challenges was finding temporary housing for employees who had been evacuated due to the fires as well as helping them financially, since many live paycheck to paycheck. That he was also harvesting grapes at the time proved challenging as well. "It was logistically a crazy Rubik’s Cube," he said.

For Wilson, the outpouring of support for the event from vintners and restaurateurs alike has already made it a major success. "It’s an amazing community get-together," Wilson said. "Hopefully, if this can raise as much money as I think it can, it will have major impact," on relief efforts, Wilson added. He is hoping for somewhere in the $5 million to $10 million range.

Funds raised from the dinner and auction will be distributed by Tipping Point through its Community Emergency Relief Fund. Tipping Point founder and CEO Daniel Lurie is a sponsor of the event. The list of charities includes Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa, the Community Foundation of Mendocino County, Jewish Family and Children’s Services and the Napa Valley Community Foundation, among others.

Tickets are $2,500, and are available at www.napasonomarelief.org. Only a few of the 350 seats at the event remain to be filled. Wine Spectator is a major sponsor of "A Night of Friendship & Fellowship."

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