Long after the embers cooled from the 2017 California wildfires that ripped through North Bay wine country, many families and businesses are still recovering, and efforts by the wine and dining industries to help are ongoing. But the November 2018 fires in Butte County and Malibu have displaced tens of thousands of people, and the industry is stepping up once again.
The most high-profile of the initiatives on the ground is that of chef José Andrés' World Central Kitchen (WCK), the fine-tuned meal-making machine that has fed displaced and hungry victims of natural disasters from Puerto Rico, in the wake of 2017's Hurricane Maria, to Indonesia, where communities were ravaged by earthquakes last month. Andrés—who has reportedly been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize—has been in California with area chefs, including Tyler Florence and Guy Fieri, and 1,000 volunteers, including restaurant owners from Paradise, Calif., who lost their homes. WCK staff told Wine Spectator that they've cooked 175,000 meals for victims of the Woolsey and Camp fires, including a Thanksgiving extravaganza at Chico State University that put away 7,000 pounds of turkey, 3,500 pounds of mashed potatoes, 100 gallons of gravy, 3,000 pounds of green beans and 1,000 pumpkin pies.
California wine retailer K&L Wine Merchants is holding an epic raffle through Dec. 4 of wines from that "impossible category of bottling where we never get enough quantity to satisfy customer demand," said co-owner Brian Zucker, via email. Raffle ticket holders have the chance to take home a bottle of 2008 Cristal rosé, a duo of red and white Chave Hermitages, a rare magnum-and-then-some 1.92-liter bottle of 1961 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo or the Karuizawa 34-year-old Japanese whiskey K&L usually sells for $10,000. The effort has already raised more than $100,000.
Wineries have been pitching in as well. Grable Vineyards in Knights Valley is pledging half the proceeds from all magnum sales to the North Valley Community Foundation's Camp Fire Relief Fund, repeating an initiative they did last year after the Tubbs fire came very close to their property. "It's awareness, and we're happy to contribute, and it's a way for us to get other people involved," co-owner Amy Grable said. Over in St. Helena, Correlation Wine Co. is giving 25 percent of proceeds from case sales to Camp fire victims.
One wine industry pro put a slightly different twist on the theme. Jordan Vineyard director of marketing and communications Lisa Mattson moonlights as a memoirist, and is donating all proceeds from the just-released second edition of her book The Exes in My Glass: How I Refined My Taste in Men & Alcohol to Sonoma Family Meal. "I remember how bad I felt physically while being displaced during the Tubbs fire, eating fast food in a hotel room, waiting to be allowed back into our neighborhood," she said via email. "Sonoma Family Meal is providing that vital, healthy meal for fire victims at a time when eating well is the last priority on their minds."
Finally, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., whose staff voluntarily evacuated its Chico facility in the Camp fire, announced the launch of the Sierra Nevada Camp Fire Relief Fund, putting up $100,000 to kick things off and brewing up a Resilience Butte County Proud IPA for release early next year.
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