8 Tasty Ways to Support the Napa Valley Relief Effort
A local expert gives us the lowdown on a region in crisis
You already know about the wildfires still burning to our north.
And we bet you’ve already found ways to support our neighbors in Wine Country.
Looking for another?
Stevie Stacionis, the co-owner of Oakland wine shop and “community gathering place” Bay Grape, says sometimes the answer is easier than you think: Wine Country makes wine. So let’s drink it.
“Buy products from the affected regions, then buy more,” she says. “Visit, drink their wines, eat at their restaurants, tip well. If that vineyard worker lost her home, let’s make sure she doesn’t lose her job, too. If that tasting room coordinator lost his car, let’s make sure we keep him employed so he can afford another. If that small, up-and-coming winemaker who can’t afford her own vineyard can’t buy fruit from the one she normally does because it’s gone, let’s make sure she sold all her last year’s wines and can afford that higher premium on the remaining vineyard’s fruit. You can’t imagine how connected the whole industry is. Just buy!”
We could not possibly disagree with any of that.
Stevie’s top selects are below. Now, go pick them up at Bay Grape — if you haven’t been, it’s amazing. As Stevie says above, Wine Country is an ecosystem, and every little bit helps. “You can’t simply consider the wineries,” she says. “You have to look at the whole picture and the entire web of people who have been deeply affected and ask how we can help them all.”
Below, the picks:
1. Sky Vineyards: Zinfandel Mt. Veeder 2012
In the Mt. Veeder appellation, this is the story of a guy living in a small house among his vines and making gorgeous, high-toned, dare-we-say fresh Zinfandel. Pretty much everything depicted on his hand-drawn label was lost in the fires.
2. Keep: Syrah Kahn Vineyard Napa 2014
ack Roberts and Johanna Jensen are an incredibly beautiful couple inside and out. Their Keep wines have been getting more and more exciting in the past couple of years, and this syrah is everything we love about the grape — peppery and tart, full of blueberry and lavender notes. We still have our fingers crossed the vineyard made it through as the fire had surrounded this land just a few days ago.
3. Inconnu: Pinot Gris Los Carneros 2014
Nasty woman extraordinaire Laura Brennan-Bissell is making some of the most beautiful and easygoing wines in the state. She lets the grape juice and skins macerate together for a short time on this wine so it’s textural but bright.
4. Coturri: Carignane Mendocino 2016
This dude practically started the “natural wine” movement in northern California. His wines are unapologetically funky yet also undeniably beautiful in a very unique way. He manages a huge chunk of organic and biodynamic vineyards in Napa and Sonoma and saw firsthand how vineyard workers in particular were affected by the fires.
5. Massican: Annia Napa Valley 2016
Dan Petroski quit his job in publishing to learn how to make wine in Italy’s rather obscure Friuli region, then came back to Napa to make Friulian style wines! That’s pretty strange, but he totally nails it. This stellar, zesty white wine includes traditional Friulian varieties Tocai Friuliano and Ribolla Gialla growing in California.
6. Enfield Wine Co.: Cabernet Sauvignon Fort Ross Seaview 2013
John Lockwood’s Cabernet shouldn’t exist. It seems way too cold to get Cabernet to ripen on the true Sonoma coast! But exist it does, and it’s incredible. Dark and powerful and almost verdant, all at once.
7. Iron Horse: Wedding Cuvée 2013
The Sterling family were some of the first to set up shop this far west in the Russian River Valley. They did so because it’s colder out there, and colder climate makes for fresher acidity, which is prized in sparkling wine. They make their bubbles in the Champagne method, and they are every bit as good as Champagne.
8) Joseph Swan: Saralee’s Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2012
Joseph Swan Pinot is so well regarded there’s a particular clone of Pinot named Swan! These are beautiful, enchanting, old-school wines that show off warm, sunny fruit without fuss.