It is with a heavy heart that I am sitting at SFO awaiting my flight back to Rhode Island from my stay in California's Napa Valley. As so many of you know, I have fallen head over heels for this beautiful place--it is the people, the sunshine, the food, the wine, all of it, so these wildfires are beyond unsettling. I am deeply distressed. I have over the past few years made some very dear friends in the valley, and I am glad to tell you they are all currently out of harm's way, but their lives will be profoundly effected by these events.
I stuggle to write about it even while I am compelled to do so; instead, I want to tell you a story about the reason I love Napa.
When I arrived a little over a month ago, St. John had just been devastated by the hurricane, and I learned about a project to raise relief funds for that island. Chris and Jules, a couple of friends who were kind enough to host me while I was out here, joined forces with some of their wine making friends to get grapes, wine making efforts, and even all of the packaging donated for a wine that would be sold with 100% of the gross sales going to aid St. John in it's rebuilding. I was so impressed with their concern for a place so far away; I wanted to help, too. The next day, Jules and I went to help pick chardonnay grapes donated by their friends out in Knight's Valley. We gave a couple of hours of help, which is not a lot, but with an "every little bit helps" attitude, we did what we could. I could not help thinking about how busy everyone is with their own harvests, and yet, they made time to donate time, grapes, staff, and energy for this project, and it felt great to be a small part of it. Harvest is an insane time, people work nonstop, and there are just barely enough hours in the day to process the grapes, so the generosity of this effort is no small thing. This is the kind of generosity that I have witnessed over and over again from people that I have met in my work--tables, homes, and hearts are always already open to people without expectation or limit. There is a joy in giving and kindness that is remarkable.
That chardonnay was delivered to the winery, and Chris worked his magic. The fate of that chardonnay, like much of this harvest's juice, including my own, remains unknown to me, but that spirit of generosity is unwaivering. My friends are safe, and I am reminded of their kindness as they all reach out to eachother offering help, shelter and information during this terrible time.
That spirit of generosity will keep Napa and Sonoma County's identity consistent and strong during this challenge, and if you are watching and are feeling the impulse to help, I want to ask you to support the small businesses that are the structure of this community. Buy their wines, their beautiful foods, and support their shops and restaurants, if you are local. I am eager to get home and share with all of my customers, friends, and family the wonderful stories from my time out here, which reinforces for me how wonderful this community remains.
We will host a tasting at the shop next weekend, and I will have a long list of websites on which you can order wine or food directly from the growers and producers. I am eager to tell you how amazing all of my friends are, and I am feeling very lucky to get home safely to all of you. I am missing lil' rhody.