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Good Will Drinking

Knowing you’re helping others makes finding an excuse to raise a glass easier than ever.

In honor of the first responders who worked tirelessly to end the Napa and Sonoma fires, The Grateful Table, which seated over 500 guests, straddled the Napa-Sonoma County line.

Photo by Max Whittaker/Visit California

When it comes to good things, Wine Country is bursting at the seams. From Michelin-starred restaurants to luxury hotels and award-winning wine, Napa and Sonoma Counties have earned a reputation for doing many things well. But something even more noteworthy has been growing for years, albeit largely unnoticed, amid these world-renowned vineyard-covered hillsides.

Wineries big and small have been sprouting change, making wine not simply to win favor and awards, but to raise money and awareness for worthy causes. Not one to show off when it comes to giving, Wine Country’s charitable side never sought much fanfare—until last October, when one of the most destructive firestorms in California history ravaged predominantly residential areas in Sonoma and Napa Counties. Helping Northern Californians impacted by the wildfires became a priority no one was going to keep quiet about.

Taking Action 

Before the flames were out, fundraisers were under way, with benefits being planned by all walks of Wine Country life.

Servers bring dessert to the 500 guests at The Grateful Table. Photo courtesy of Visit California.

Local celebrity chef Tyler Florence partnered with Visit California, the state’s tourism office, and Outstanding in the Field, a company that specializes in setting tables in beautiful outdoor settings, to host The Grateful Table. The pre-Thanksgiving feast was served atop a table set for more than 500 people in a vineyard straddling the Napa-Sonoma County line. Anyone could purchase a seat, but donations ensured first responders such as firefighters and California Highway Patrol officers had a spot at the table. Nearly $150,000 was raised.

Hall Napa Valley offered free rooms to displaced residents and first responders for a month at its Senza hotel. Through the end of October, all tasting fees from Hall St. Helena, Hall Rutherford, and Walt Sonoma were contributed to fire relief. Donations were given and matched, and silent auctions hosted. All told, more than $1,000,000 was raised.

Michael Franti and Spearhead perform to raise money for fire relief with BottleRock Presents. Photo by Steven Carolo.

BottleRock Presents organized a trio of concerts with headliners, including Train, Counting Crows, and Michael Franti and Spearhead, raising spirits and more than $400,000. In addition, Sebastopol-based Spirit Works Distillery bottled an entire barrel of Cask Strength Wheat Whiskey, earmarking 100 percent of the estimated $10,000 in proceeds to local fire relief.

When the power went out at Carneros Resort and Spa, staff at on-site restaurant Farm didn’t waste any time getting perishables to where they could be used to feed first responders and those forced to flee their homes. Chicken was fried, cookies were baked, and an estimated $20,000 worth of food was donated.

These are just a few of the many stories of generosity worthy of being told. The outpouring of support by the community for the community was inspiring, but to those who know Wine Country well, it wasn’t surprising. Napa and Sonoma Counties have always been good at doing good. From mental health education and awareness to support for veterans and children in need, Wine Country boasts a well-established track record of making a difference, one delicious sip and swirl at a time. Read on to learn more about what to drink—and where—when you want to make a difference.

Events that Give Back

Chefs compete to win money for the charity of their choice at Hall Cabernet Cookoff. Photo courtesy of Hall Napa Valley.

Hall Cabernet Cookoff, Hall Wines
Since it began in 2011, the Hall Cabernet Cookoff has raised more than $550,000 for Napa Valley charities like Napa Humane (the Humane Society of Napa County and SPCA) and St. Helena Hospital. The annual event features a lineup of chef teams that compete to win for the charity of their choice by pairing bites with Hall Coeur Cabernet Sauvignon. Celebrity judges vote for the top dish. This year’s judges include actress Beth Behrs, Bay Area Sports Hall of Famer Carmen Policy, Food Network celebrity chef Duff Goldman, chef Ken Frank of La Toque, and critic Virginie Boone of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Guests select the top two pairings for the coveted People’s Choice Award. One hundred percent of ticket proceeds benefits Napa Valley nonprofit organizations.
Date: April 28
Cost: General admission, $125; VIP preview, $200.
Info: 401 St. Helena Hwy., St. Helena, (707) 967-2626, hallwines.com.

Top Sonoma chefs pair food with wine from 21 wineries for Project Zin.

Project Zin, Clay Mauritson and Charlie Palmer
Project Zin brings together 21 highly acclaimed Northern California Zinfandel wines. The number chosen is intentional; in most cases of Down syndrome, there is an extra copy of chromosome 21, impacting the body and brain’s development. The annual event, led by winemaker Clay Mauritson and chef Charlie Palmer, has raised nearly $700,000 for the Down Syndrome Association North Bay. Funds are used for research and to support those affected by Down syndrome. Held at Dry Creek Kitchen and Hotel Healdsburg, the event features sought-after Zinfandels paired with food from Palmer and a long list of top Sonoma County chefs.
Date: August 18
Cost: $200 for unlimited wine tasting and bites.
Info: Dry Creek Kitchen, 317 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, (707) 431-0330, projectzin.org.

Staglin’s wine caves host exclusive tastings during the Music Festival for Brain Health. Photo by Rafael Motto/Flying Pig Studio.

Music Festival for Brain Health, Staglin Family Vineyard
For nearly a quarter of a century, the Staglin family has advocated for healthy brains and strong minds, raising more than $280 million since 1995. Every September, the winery hosts the Music Festival for Brain Health. Along with a scientific symposium, more than 75 renowned wineries—including sought-after labels like Lando, Screaming Eagle, Lokoya, and Poetry—come together to pour a one-of-a-kind tasting in the Staglin caves. The festival also includes an intimate concert overlooking the vineyards and a gourmet dinner. In September 2017, with the help of Lyle Lovett and his Acoustic Group, nearly $5.5 million was raised to benefit One Mind, a nonprofit mental health organization dedicated to curing brain-related diseases and conditions, including traumatic brain injury, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar illness.
Date: September 15
Cost: Free to attend the scientific symposium. Early bird festival passes purchased before July 1 are $750 for the tasting and concert, and $5,000 for the entire day’s events, including the postconcert four-course dinner. After July 1, $1,000 for the tasting and concert, and $7,500 for the entire day’s events.
Info: 1570 Bella Oaks Ln., Rutherford, (707) 963-4038, music-festival.org.

Wines With a Cause

Wine Country’s charitable giving isn’t limited to events. Wineries throughout Napa and Sonoma Counties support an assortment of causes by doing what they do best: making wine.

Bee’s Box Wines, Francis Ford Coppola Winery and Virginia Dare Winery
The idea behind Bee’s Box Wines is simple: Buy a bottle, save a bee. Launched last summer by The Family Coppola wines, the line donates 10 percent of its proceeds to bee-friendly nonprofit Pollinator Partnership.
The wines: Bee’s Box Chardonnay, $19; Bee’s Box Pinot Noir, $19.
Info: Francis Ford Coppola Winery, 300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, (707) 857-1400, francisfordcoppolawinery.com. Virginia Dare Winery, 22281 Chianti Rd., Geyserville, (707) 735-3500, virginiadarewinery.com.

Do It for the Love, Ca’Momi Winery
Ca’Momi’s Do It for the Love endeavor began in 2014, and all of the profits go to the Do It for the Love Foundation. Created by Bay Area musician Michael Franti and his wife, Sara Agah Franti, the nonprofit organization focuses on the healing power of music, bringing those living with life-threatening illnesses to live concerts. Since its debut, Do It for the Love red and white wine sales have contributed an estimated $20,000 directly to the organization.
The wines: Ca’Momi Do It for the Love Red, $18.99; Ca’Momi Do It for the Love White, $18.99.
Info: Ca’Momi Winery, camomiwinery.com. Do It for the Love, doitforthelove.org.

C. Mondavi and Family winemaker John Moynier and Marc Mondavi with the Purple Heart Red Wine that honors America’s veterans. Photo courtesy of C. Mondavi and Family.

Perpetuity, Rivera Vineyards
Founded over a decade ago, Rivera Vineyards has long used its twin wines, Perpetuity and Magnanimous, to support such foundations as Make a Wish and the Nicholas Colby Fund. This spirit lives on today, as Perpetuity continues to be donated to charitable organizations.
The wine: 2014 Perpetuity, $85.
Info: riveravineyards.org.

Purple Heart Wines, C. Mondavi and Family
Named after the Purple Heart military medal, the wine honors America’s veterans. (C. Mondavi and Family patriarch Peter Mondavi Sr. was a veteran of World War II.) Produced by the company since 2016, the line has donated $60,000 to the Purple Heart Foundation, an organization that supports veterans in need.
The wine: Purple Heart Red Wine, $19.99.
Info: purpleheartwines.com.

Buena Vista Winery winemaker Brian Maloney and proprietor Jean-Charles Boisset with the full lineup of Buena Vista wines, including the Sheriff of Buena Vista. Photo by Alex Rubin.

Santana Series, Mumm Napa
Yes, that Santana. A collaboration between Mumm Napa and legendary rock musician Carlos Santana, this series donates a portion of its proceeds to the Milagro Foundation established by Santana and his family in 1998. It aids children in need around the world. About $15,000 has been raised to date.
The wines: Vintage 2008 Santana Supernatural Brut, $70; Santana Brut, $50; Santana Savor, $32.
Info: Mumm Napa, 8445 Silverado Trail, Rutherford, (707) 967-7700, mummnapa.com. The Milagro Foundation, milagrofoundation.org.

The Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery
Before he established Buena Vista Winery in 1857, Agoston Haraszthy served as the first sheriff in San Diego County. Today, a portion of the proceeds from every bottle of The Sheriff of Buena Vista sold across the country is donated to the National Sheriff’s Association Education Foundation. As an added bonus, for every bottle sold in the state of California, an additional donation is made to the San Diego Sheriff’s Museum and Educational Center.
The wine: The Sheriff of Buena Vista, $40.
Info: Buena Vista Winery, 18000 Old Winery Rd., Sonoma, (800) 926-1266, buenavistawinery.com.

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