It seems as though Thanksgiving sneaks up on us all, temporarily disappearing under the Halloween displays that quickly morph into Christmas decor and talk of New Year’s Eve plans. Yet Thanksgiving is a holiday not to be glossed over. Though we should give thanks in our daily lives, as gratitude makes for a more meaningful life, this special day is a reminder for reflection. Our country (not to mention, the world) has faced so much devastation this year, so I think this is the time to count our blessings. For me, it’s my family’s good health, the strong relationship I have with my roommate and best friend (yes, you don’t have compromise friendship by living together!), and the opportunity to follow my lifelong dreams.
Thanksgiving is also the time to give back.
I’m spending this Thanksgiving up north and plan to support the wildfire-affected communities by bringing their wines to my holiday table. The October wildfires that swept across Northern California have left a devastating impact on counties like Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, and Lake; the Tubbs Fire has been named “the most destructive wildfire in California history.” I have yet to drive through the Sonoma County communities, but what I’ve seen left behind (or lack thereof) by the Redwood Valley Complex Fire is heartbreaking. Many homeowners are now without a home for the holidays, winemakers and grape growers are left with significant property damage this harvest, and cities are forced to rebuild landmarks that once made up their community. But as they’d say in Sonoma, “the love in the air is thicker than the smoke.”
There are numerous ways to donate to those impacted by the fires (see below), but one way I especially encourage is to buy wines from the affected counties. Though I’m clearly biased, being born and raised in one of the affected counties, the wines that come out of Mendocino, Sonoma, and Napa really are some of the best. It’s sort of a win-win way of showing your support to keep Northern California strong; you can drink and enjoy the fruits of these farmers’ and winemakers’ labor while supporting their business. Many have speculated about the possibility smoke taint in this vintage, but fortunately most of the grapes had been harvested by the time the fires broke out; the smoke also didn’t linger for months like it did in the 2008 harvest. The industry remains optimistic and you should, too. And luckily, there is no evidence that smoke taint remains in the vines to impose issues on future vintages.
Banshee 2015 Pinot Noir Sonoma County
I first bought a bottle of Banshee Pinot Noir for a wine tasting I hosted a few months back and it was easily a crowd favorite. Banshee’s nose reveals lots of red fruit and dried rose petals, while its silky palate delivers blackberry, dark cherry, plum, baking spices, and subtle pepper and forest floor on the finish. Banshee is a high-quality California Pinot at a great price; you should stock up on for your Thanksgiving table because you’ll definitely want more than one glass! You can check out Banshee’s Fire Relief page here to see how purchasing Banshee wine or a Banshee Sonoma Strong T-shirt can help the cause, plus other ways you can contribute.
Frey 2015 Organic Chardonnay Mendocino County
The Frey Winery prides itself on producing award-winning vegan, gluten-free wines with no added sulfites, so you can sip guilt-free this holiday season. Their organic Chardonnay can be found on the winery’s website, of course, or at your nearest Whole Foods. Aged in stainless steel, this Chardonnay does have a touch of oak, but the core is fruit-forward. Bright apple, pear, dried apricot, and caramel greet your palate, making for a crisp, lighter-bodied Chardonnay that would balance out a rich, holiday meal nicely. As mentioned above, the Frey family lost their Redwood Valley-located tasting room, bottling line, offices, and about 10% of their estate vineyards.
Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley, Sonoma County
My small, but growing wine collection includes a few bottles of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon (the 2010 and 2012 vintages), which is modeled after Bordeaux-style Cab. Though each vintage brings forth nuances, like a hint of cedar here or a whiff of violet there, Jordan is best known for its signature silky palate, dark fruit, and seductive finish that lingers. While Jordan Winery and the town of Healdsburg was spared in the wildfires, several winery employees lost their homes to the Tubbs Fire, and their beekeeper lost everything. A significant portion of Jordan Winery profits fund The John Jordan Foundation’s philanthropy, which has already made a big donation to the new housing recovery fund for farm workers and their families displaced by the fires. For more Jordan-related wildfire news, check out their blog post here.
Below are a few additional resources if you wish to help the wildfire-affected communities in other ways this holiday season:
Disaster Relief Fund for Mendocino County