What To Drink Now: Napa & Sonoma

Sunset over Yountville, Napa Valley

Late last night I reached out to my sister in San Francisco’s East Bay area to make sure she and her family were prepared for the looming PG&E shutdown the power company had been threatening would occur, but no one really thought it would happen. The goal was simple, to avoid the chance of fires, like the devastating one that hit Sonoma and Napa two years ago, destroying hundreds of homes, covering thousands of acres. The outage is meant to be preventative, as strong winds, no humidity, and very dry land would mean any opportunity for a live wire to snap could prove disastrous.

The precautionary outage is expected to affect over 1 million homes and business in highly populated areas like Northern San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, East Bay, and Napa and Sonoma Counties. Over 2.5 million people could be left in the dark for days.

Cabernet Sauvignon

However, we are also in the midst of the busiest time of year for the California wine industry as grapes are being harvested, crushed, and fermented, all of which takes power. Yes, the bigger wineries often have back up generators to help when there is a power outage, but what about the little guy, the winery would produces a few thousands cases a year from a few hundred acres of fruit. Of course, they don’t want to see their land or facility destroyed if a fire were to come, but how can they afford to rent a generator for a few days at a cost of around $30K per day, especially when all of their neighbors are looking to acquire that same tool. This, in a year where quantity is high, leaving many vintners looking for outlets to sell their fruit often for a lower price than the quality would normally dictate. Farming is never easy, as we are seeing now.

With that, as you grab your nightly bottle of wine, select one from a Northern California winery that maybe you hadn’t considered before. Even better, look for a producer who is doing their part to help Mother Nature during these years of understanding how to fight climate change, doing their part by working sustainably, and helping those in need where they can. Thankfully, my sister still has her power on right now. We are keeping our fingers crossed it stays this way. Cheers.

After the 2017 wildfires in Napa and Sonoma, winemakers Ryan and Chrystal Waugh created Relief Wines to help those affected by the fires, with 100% of the proceeds going from their recently released Firestorm Chardonnay and Rose going to Sonoma’s Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild the areas of the county destroyed by fire. The Chardonnay ($16) is bright, crisp, lively, and balanced with ripe apple, pear, melon, and citrus.

With a philosophy that wine must be made in harmonious conjunction with nature, and not against it, Distant Cellars Wines honors the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation with their Tribute Red for those who have lost their lives serving others in the profession. A Zinfandel dominant blend from Amador County, Distant Cellars donates 30% of the sales of their Tribute Red ($30) to NFFF.

Robin Lail is a lover of the land, the land in Napa Valley in particular. Earlier this year she stepped up to become one of the founding members of the Porto Protocol as the US Representative to the group. Based in Porto, Portugal, Porto Protocol is an international group of leaders focused on finding smart solutions that will fight the affects of climate change, particularly for the wine industry. She joins other dominant leaders in the wine industry, like the Symington family who I just traveled with throughout their vineyards and wineries along the Douro River in Portugal, focused on finding ways to farm clean, green, and with as light of a carbon footprint as possible. Lail Vineyards is now offering additional assistance to helping fight the affects of climate change by donating 10% of each bottle of their stunning Blueprint Sauvignon Blanc ($40) and Cabernet Sauvignon ($80) sold on-line, via their website, to Cool Effect, helping reduce the affects of carbon emissions, a big issue in the production of wine.

With a company wide focus on sustainability, DeLoach Vineyards, a part of the Boisset Collection, donates 100% of the net proceeds from their Vinthropic Russian River Chardonnay ($20) and Pinot Noir ($24) wines to Sonoma’s Redwood Empire Food Bank, feeding those in need in Sonoma.

Being generous to the people, as well as of the land, Bannister Wine Company was born out of a love of making exceptional fruit into incredible wines, with a low-intervention philosophy. Partnering with growers throughout Sonoma County, Bannister Wines focuses on delivering balanced wine, like their Bannister Campbell Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($55) with elegant tannins, punchy, fresh acidity, and delicious, luscious, fruit-forward flavors. Stewardship is a part of who they are, as the winery generously donates to their community, supporting everything from the Redwood Credit Union Fire Relief Fund to the Healdsburg Public Library to the Sonoma County Boys and Girls Clubs to the Save The Redwoods League.

A primary part of their work, but not of their marketing efforts, Jordan Winery CEO, John Jordan created the John Jordan Foundation to help those most in need in his community, particularly providing education, mentoring opportunities, and jobs to the disadvantaged to help them thrive. The work of the Foundation has helped hundreds of individuals over the years. I appreciate their efforts, and love the mentality that giving back is a part of who they are, almost like breathing.

Beginning November 1, Frank Family Vineyards launches their “Frank Fights Hunger” campaign, partnering with Feeding America. Over 40 million Americans are food insecure, not knowing where their daily meals will come from, skipping meals or eating inexpensive food without nutritional value. Starting the first of November Napa Valley’s Frank Family Winery will donate 10% of the proceeds from their 2017 Carneros Pinot Noir ($38) purchased through their website, here, to helping feed those most in need. What better way to show your thanks than by helping give back, as this Pinot is the ideal pairing for your Thanksgiving meal.