Wine Industry Donates for Fire Victims

Millions donated by wine companies to support relief efforts for those affected by fires

by Johanna Rupp
wine wineries vineyards fire napa community foundation
Terence Mulligan accepts a donation from Lamborn Family Vineyards on behalf of the Napa Valley Community Foundation.

Santa Rosa, Calif.—It has been one month since a series of devastating wildfires ravaged the North Coast area of California, leaving behind unprecedented devastation. Almost immediately, a number of local agencies, businesses and organizations responded to fill the needs of those affected by the fires.

To date, wineries and wine-related businesses have donated millions of dollars to support victims of the fires. Many donated funds directly to recovery organizations, while others donated products, services or proceeds from specially produced products such as wine to charities funding fire relief. A list of many of the donations by wineries and wine industry companies as well as where to send additional donations can be found here.  

Several other fundraisers and charitable events have been organized, such as a benefit concert taking place Thursday at AT&T Park featuring Metallica, Dave Matthews and other artists, to support the victims of the fires. On Nov. 11 rock star John Fogarty will headline a 200-person, $10,000-per-ticket concert hosted by Hamel Family Wines.

Several fast-moving blazes erupted the night of Oct. 8 and swept through Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties, scorching nearly 250,000 acres, killing 43 people and destroying thousands of homes, businesses and other buildings.

Wine industry donations
The largest winery donation made public thus far has been from E. & J. Gallo Winery, which donated $1 million split equally between the American Red Cross California Wildfires Relief Fund, Community Foundation Sonoma County and the Napa Valley Community Foundation, as well pledging to match Gallo employee donations $2 for every $1.

“It is devastating to learn that our colleagues, friends, growers and neighbors have suffered such great losses,” CEO Joseph E. Gallo said in a news release announcing the donation. “We hope they are given the strength, fortitude and endurance to deal with these adversities.”

G3 Enterprises, another Gallo family company, also donated $100,000 with the pledge to match employee donations by 2:1; Trinchero Family Estates made a $250,000 donation; Treasury Wine Estates donated $100,000; B. Wise Vineyards donated $250,000; the Foley Family Charitable Foundation contributed $225,000; Rodney Strong Vineyards donated $100,000; Joseph Phelps Vineyards donated $100,000 through its charitable foundation, and Naked Wines launched an online fundraising drive that has generated more than $750,000 so far.

Relief groups
The main organizations to receive donations have reported funds ranging from thousands to millions of dollars. Terence Mulligan, president of the Napa Valley Community Foundation, said while it is difficult to estimate amounts when funds continue to be collected daily, the foundation’s disaster relief fund had received more than $7 million.

Of that amount, Mulligan estimated that between $2.5 million and $3 million has been contributed by wineries and winegrowers. Funds are distributed via pre-qualified grants to a variety of nonprofits including Fair Housing Napa Valley, Napa Humane and Community Action Napa Valley.
Another major organization to receive donations to aid in fire recovery is Community Foundation Sonoma County, which formed the Sonoma County Resilience Fund to address the medium- to long-term needs of the community. According to Karl Grimm, vice president of finance and operations, the foundation has attempted to track promises to the Sonoma County Resilience Fund since its opening Oct. 10.

“I feel confident that over $1 million of the $5 million we have raised for the Resilience Fund has been as a result of actions by our wine-producing and distributing community,” he said. “Wineries and growers have encouraged donations from their (direct-to-consumer) databases; they have agreed to matching contributions, and of course have given directly. Wine distributors are also making contributions.”

The American Red Cross, a major force in fire relief, reports it has collected $7 million so far, according to spokesperson Cynthia Shaw.

In Mendocino County, Megan Barber Allende, the CEO of the Community Foundation of Mendocino Disaster Relief Fund, said that foundation had raised more than $ 1 million in fire relief donations as of Nov. 3. Funds initially went to North Coast Opportunies and the Mendocino Children’s Fund to address immediate needs such as temporary housing, childcare and medical relief.
Rebuild Wine Country, which partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County to help rebuild homes in Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Lake and Mendocino counties, has received $94,403 to date, according to the group’s website. And Lake County responded to the recent fires by reactivating its the North Coast Opportunities Wildfire Relief Fund, originally created in response to the 2015 Rocky, Jerusalem and Valley fires in Lake County, and again for the 2016 Clayton Fire.

Another fund formed in response to the loss of property was the Agriculture Housing Recovery Fund created by the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation and the Sonoma County Farm Bureau. According to Karissa Kruse, executive director of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation, to date the fund has received more than $400,000 for new housing. Initial investments were contributed by local grapegrowers and supporters including $25,000 from the John Jordan Foundation and Jordan Vineyard & Winery and $25,000 from American Ag Credit.

With the California Insurance Commissioner estimating wildfire damage in excess of $3 billion, donations are still needed as recovery efforts continue indefinitely.


Currently no comments posted for this article.