HELPING OUR CALIFORNIA FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES - The Yamhill-Carlton American Viticultural Area The Yamhill-Carlton American Viticultural Area


The fires that devastated the California wine country communities of Santa Rosa, Sonoma and Napa earlier this month touched us deeply in Oregon wine country. Many of us here in the Willamette Valley got our starts in the wine business in Napa and Sonoma or grew up there, others have friends and families there, and everyone was shocked and saddened by the stories and pictures of devastation caused by the wildfires. Lives were lost, businesses were destroyed and hundreds of homes were burned to their foundations, displacing families for months to come.

For those reasons, winemaker/owner Joel Kiff of JL Kiff Vineyards found himself this past Wednesday morning in the unusual position of arriving at Joe Dobbes’ family winery in Dundee at 5 a.m. for a “mission of mercy” that had been conceived over the prior week and executed by much of the YC wine community and our friends and neighbors throughout the valley. Kiff had brought along a big, yellow, 15-foot box truck that the Dobbes crew filled with supplies that had been hastily acquired and donated by the Oregon wine community as relief for our California friends. As Kiff watched, the Dobbes crew lifted four palettes onto the truck that were stacked high with boxes of relief merchandise and items of need for the workers and families who had lost everything when their homes and businesses were burned to the ground.

The call for donations had gone out a few days earlier by Terri Tuttle, a harvest intern at Dobbes who had personally mobilized our local wine community into action. Knocking on doors at Anne Amie, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Remy Wines, Stoller and others, she asked that donations be dropped at Dobbes, which she would personally deliver to California this week. The word spread swiftly by social media, with Matt Tracy of Anne Amie and Jessica Endsworth of Angela Estate, among others, passing the news along. Joel Kiff, who has family in Healdsburg and grew up in the afflicted region, offered to drive the box truck, which in itself was another contribution on loan from the Yamhill Alliance Helping Others Out (YAHOO), a volunteer organization that builds homes in Mexico every year. Local author and blogger Jim Gullo (who contributes to this YC blog) offered to assist with the driving and delivery duties.

The outpouring of contributions was amazing. On the palettes were brand-new plastic storage bins filled with children’s clothes, toiletries, undergarments for men, women and children, pet food and pet carrying containers and dog beds, bedding, linens and non-perishable foods. There were first-aid kits and five-person tents, and one restaurant donated a case of coffee. Joe Dobbes himself donated all of the cash needed for gas money for Kiff and Tuttle’s vehicles. It was heartwarming and extremely gratifying, said Tuttle, who comes from Omaha, Nebraska, is working her first Oregon crush, and is training to become a sommelier.

Other wineries and Willamette Valley businesses are contributing to the California relief effort in different ways. Elk Cove Vineyards and Pike Road Wines donated all of their tasting fees from last weekend to fire-relief organizations in California, reported Katherine Stalmann, Elk Cove’s Direct Sales Manager. This weekend a benefit wine tasting event will be held at the Allison Inn in Newberg, with almost all of the $125/person ticket price going to fire relief. Ken Wright Cellars, Angela Estate, Gran Moraine and Colene Clemens are some of the YC wineries that will be pouring at the event.

Kiff, Tuttle and Gullo drove for twelve hours on Wednesday, past hillsides burned black, guardrails that were bizarrely melted in places and whole sections of Santa Rosa that were dark, and delivered the load of relief supplies to a Catholic church staging area. Everyone they spoke with had stories of where they were when the fire dangers spiked, and sad stories of the people who were trapped and did not make it out of homes and neighborhoods that suddenly became infernos. All of us in Yamhill-Carlton wish our colleagues to the south a quick and full recovery.

Another account of the relief effort can be found in this article in the Salem Statesman Journal.


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