A fantastic California event raises money for charities in Napa and Sonoma in wake of wine country fires

CARNEROS, CALIFORNIA – Some of the top chefs in the state. Fantastic local wines. And a table for 500 people that stretched down a hill in the middle of a vineyard on a perfect fall day.

Visit California, the tourism board for one of the world’s largest tourist destinations, staged a truly remarkable event on Tuesday that raised tens of thousands of dollars for charities that help workers affected by the recent California wine country fires in Napa and Sonoma.

“I think there are a thousand people here today to celebrate that the fires are over, that Napa County and Sonoma County are open for business,” said Angela Jackson, director media relations for Visit Napa Valley.

For a video of Jackson’s comments, click here.

Jim Byers Photo

The event was sponsored by Visit California, which footed the bill, in partnership with chef Tyler Florence from The Food Network and with Outstanding in the Field, which hosts regular events with farm-to-table themes.

Guests gathered in a vineyard on a gently sloping hill in the Carneros Region, just north of San Francisco Bay, with a 504-foot-long table that straddled the Napa and Sonoma County lines. There were white table cloths and gorgeous flower arrangements and smartly-dressed servers passing around fall squash soup, fried chicken sandwiches and other tasty treats. Not to mention outstanding California wines; fruity Chardonnays and lush Cabernets and Pinot Noirs, as well as fabulous sparkling wines. Then came the main event, a six-course-meal with fried brussels sprouts, greens with pomegranate and California walnuts, a butternut squash risotto, carved Sonoma turkey, juicy local lamb with roasted cauliflower and a magnificent dessert of sticky fig cake in a jar. It would’ve been an incredible meal if it was served in a high school cafeteria. The fact it was laid out on a formal table in a vineyard overlooking San Francisco Bay on a 70-degree (20 Celsius) day in late November, with rows of crimson and deep yellow grape leaves marching in rows on either side.

Jim Byers Photo

Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, said the event wasn’t just about fancy wineries and high-end restaurants but was aimed at helping ordinary workers who need jobs to feed their families.

For a video of Beteta’s comments, click here

“We’re all just Californians together and we wanted to come together to help support this community. But at the same time (we wanted) to say, ‘Look it’s beautiful here and it’s open for business.’”

The event also included many first responders, including local highway patrol officers and other emergency personnel who fought fires and rescued people and saved lives and buildings.

“We have this community because of those first responders,” she said.

Jim Byers Photo

“This Thanksgiving, we are incredibly thankful for the support our wine country communities have received from around the world,” Beteta said. “Our guests came from far and near during a holiday week to share our table and support this community. I want to thank the hundreds of people that came together at The Grateful Table and the countless travelers who continue to visit the region and support the local economy.”

More than five hundred guests attended the event. All ticket sales benefit the Mendocino County Disaster Fund, Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund, Sonoma County Resilience Fund and California Restaurant Association Foundation.

Many of California’s top chefs served up tasty treats at the evenr and mingled with attendees. Duskie Estes, who runs the marvellous Zazu Kitchen and Bar in Sonoma County, walked the entire length of the table, a couple hundred meters, up and down thanking people for coming and contributing to a great cause.

For more information on how to support those impacted by the Wine Country fires and to make a donation in support of those affected, visit www.visitcalifornia.com/support-wine-country

People are also encouraged to visit, as tourism spending brings nearly $3.7 billion to the region annually. Many businesses and residents, even those not directly impacted by the fires, lost weeks of work as fires forced evacuations and road closures in October.

“As the community works toward a full recovery, we remind travelers that tourism is the lifeblood of the Wine Country economy and the regions residents need your business now more than ever,” Beteta said.

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