El Dorado wineries pour their support for California fire victims | TahoeDailyTribune.com

El Dorado wineries pour their support for California fire victims

Laura McCutcheon
Mountain Democrat

Emily Hays at Chateau Davell Winery is donating $1 from each bottle sale to victims of the Tubbs Fire.

The El Dorado Winery Association has joined numerous other wineries, breweries, restaurants and hotels throughout the state committed to donating a portion of their sales during the remainder of October to fire relief efforts in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

Proceeds from CAWineStrong — the name of the support network organized by a group of winery association leaders — will be donated to Napa Valley Community Foundation's Disaster Relief Fund; Community Foundation of Sonoma County's Resilience Fund; and Community Foundation of Mendocino County Disaster Fund of Mendocino County.

Participating wineries in the El Dorado Winery Association (EDWA) are donating $1 (minimum) per bottle of wine sold, according to Stephanie Singer, direct-to-consumer manager at Skinner Vineyards and Winery in Somerset, who spoke on behalf of Carey Skinner, winery co-owner and president of EDWA.

Skinner is donating $3 per bottle sold, in honor of the three different counties hit by the fires, Singer said.

"We are just so heartbroken watching the fires and the destruction and the loss of our friends and colleagues — and all of those impacted in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties. We know firsthand the helplessness of having fire be such a real and present danger. Even if it's just in a small way, we really wanted to do something to show our support," Singer said.

Emily Hays, owner of Chateau Davell Boutique Winery in Camino, said her winery is donating $1 per bottle, through the end of October. Hays has taken it upon herself to call multiple wineries in EDWA to see if they are interested in donating to the cause.

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"It's just devastating to watch what's happening — not only to people's homes and businesses, but to a place we can relate with really closely," Hays said. "Not only because we are both in high fire danger areas, but also because we love those regions ourselves. We spend a lot of time there wine tasting and enjoying everything that is awesome about California and our wine-growing regions. We feel their pain," she said.

"Something I really appreciate about our region in El Dorado is we consider ourselves a wine-growing family. We all work together to make this a special place and I feel like we consider those other wine-growing regions our extended family. It's unimaginable what they are going through and we all want to support them," she said, adding, "We all know rebuilding isn't just filling out an insurance claim. You put your blood, sweat and tears into your business and home and it's going to be like starting from scratch for a lot of people in those areas. We want them to know that we stand with them."

The fires in Northern California killed 42 people, destroyed 8,400 structures and scorched more than 271,000 acres.

Hospitality businesses not only CAWine Strong donors — but victims

Cricklewood restaurant owners Michael O'Brien and wife Lynette McGee not only lost their home, but their livelihood as well, when their Santa Rosa business burned to the ground. Several other restaurants in the immediate area, as well as Paradise Ridge Winery, were also consumed by fire.

Their employees not only lost their jobs, but for some, their second family.

While career waitress Dede Barnacle is very thankful she didn't lose her home, she said she feels a huge sense of loss, nonetheless. A loss that can only be understood by someone who has worked at the same place of business for almost 30 years. Her former coworkers will eventually find new jobs, but Cricklewood "was more than a job for some of us," she said. "We were a family. A group of friends who supported each other on a daily basis."

And while she knows the two dozen or so employees she worked with have phone numbers to reach each other, her regular customers are a different story. They literally disappeared from her life, in an instant.

"When I say 'regular' customers, I mean I could practically set my watch by the time and day they would come in each week. Sometimes multiple times in a week. Ever since I lost my job, I find myself saying, 'What day is it?' I always knew it was Wednesday when Dwight and his buddies came in. They would sit in the lounge and play dice to determine who was paying for the beer that day. It was Tuesday when Karen would bring Mae in from her assisted living home for some wine and prime rib. Thursday it was Bob and Peter; Friday it was Bill and Carolyn … and of course they all had 'their' tables where they would always sit. Some of them would even call in to let us know if they weren't coming, so we wouldn't worry.

"They were more than just customers; they were friends … friends who were just taken away from me by the fire. Many of them were elderly and I worry about whether they are OK through all of this, as a lot of them lived in the affected neighborhoods," she said.

As of Oct. 19, Chateau Davell in Camino; Boeger Winery in Placerville; Wofford Acres Vineyards in Placerville; Narrow Gate Vineyards in Pleasant Valley; Skinner Vineyards and Winery in Somerset; Cantiga Wineworks in Somerset; Mount Aukum Winery in Somerset; Element 79 Vineyards, also in Somerset; and Shadow Ranch Winery and Gwinllyn Winery, both in Fairplay and Everhart Cellars in Pilot Hill were all committed to donating proceeds of their sales.

For more information about CAWineStrong, or to make a donation, visit http://bit.ly/2hd9VBQ. Donations can also be made by calling the individual disaster relief funds (contact numbers/addresses are listed on the CAWineStrong site), or by mail.

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