Grateful for Good Gifts, Good Stories with Wineries from Napa #WinePW

Joy to the World– Grateful for the Gift of Good Wine and Good Stories: From one fire to another

If you ask me, it’s stories that make us humans, stories that help us make meaning, stories that help us connect and care for each other. And so if you are looking for a wine for a gift this holiday season, I would choose one with a good story. Here’s one of mine.

When I was a little girl, there was a fire in Ondulando, a neighborhood above ours on the east end of Ventura. I’m not too sure how big it was but that fire had a huge impact on me. We all stood in the street in awe watching it burn.  Seeing the orange glow on the hillsides seemed more threatening to me and my home and my family than it actually was.

Following the fire, at certain times of the year when the light would hit windows on the hillsides just right, they would glow red and it would strike terror in my heart — I was sure there was another fire and I was surprised that no one was alarmed.

wearing my N95 Particulate Respirator on Day 2 of the #ThomasFire

A few days ago, that fire I feared as a child hit for real.

The Thomas Fire started at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula and fueled forward by fierce winds, flames raced toward Ventura at times gobbling an acre a second until it reached Ondulando and beyond.  I heard the dispatch call out addresses and I pictured the streets where my friends grew up– and where friends live today.

I could imagine only too well what it looked like from my childhood home because I could see that fire as it spread to the hillside where my grandfather built his house– and his wine cellar not far from where I live today, a block away from the mandatory evacuation zone which was just lifted and two blocks from where it still is.,

The wind was and continues to be terrible, with hurricane force winds of 80 to 100 miles an hour driving the fire to consume almost 50k acres that first night, and now, while less intense, the winds are erratic, less predictable, ever dangerous. Until the wind dies down, it will be impossible for them to contain this fire. With no rain in sight, they are saying it may burn until Christmas or even the New Year.

Screen shot from an ArcGIS map showing the Thomas Fire burn area Dec. 7 2017

As of this writing, nearly 150k acres have burned with 500 structures destroyed including homes belonging to a dozen or more friends as well as former students who met in my creative writing class over 15 years ago.

the house of a childhood friend of mine, Suzanne Henthorn; here’s her GoFundMe page if you can help:

In my county, over 100k people have been evacuated from their homes in the previous few days. I know more people who have been evacuated than I know who have not been evacuated.

And this fire as well as a spate of fires in Southern California will be part of a Federal Disaster area. Already the resources are driving and flying in.

We are the lucky ones, able to stay in our homes, power flickering, non-potable water flowing, our VW van ready for us to escape into, a comfortable home away from home. We are safe save from the smoky air… and cabin fever. Minor inconveniences really in the big picture.

Sue also was lucky: she lives in a voluntary evacuation zone so she was also able to stay home even though at times all of the roads around us were closed due to fire. Above are a few of the photos Sue’s partner John Walsh shared; these were taken from their house in Meiners Oaks which is in the Ojai Valley — the inlet of green in the sea of browned lands in the map above.

For over a month, for this edition of Wine Pairing Weekend “Giving the Gift of Wine” and hosted by David Crowley, Sue and I had planned to focus on Napa wines for holiday gift giving.
I think good gifts have good stories, and because of the Napa fires, choosing to gift wines from Napa helps support a region devastated by fire in October.
I didn’t think we’d be challenged to write about these wineries because we were battling our own fire. And I wouldn’t have imagined that the fires would make me so overwhelmed and so sick that I couldn’t think straight much less taste and write about wine.
So this is going to be a multi-part post. In the first part, I will introduce the wines, tell you this fire story, encourage us to be grateful for the gifts we are given. (I’d hoped to accomplish more and I hope you will be patient considering the conditions as I work to complete this project!)

Map of 2017 Northern California wildfires from October 5 to October 12

Let me remind you for a moment of the tragedy of the Napa fire as a backdrop for these wines that remind us to be grateful. The Atlas Peak and the Tubbs fires plus other wine country fires began in early October and weren’t contained until the end of the month.  People died: 44 to be exact. Wineries and other businesses burned, and some 3,000 homes burned. The Atlas Peak fire burned over 50k acres, the Tubbs fire nearly 37k. While most of the grapes had been harvested, the impact on the wine industry has been huge: from fears of smoke taint to the harvest (not likely) to disruption of sales and tourism as well as to people’s lives due to loss of income and more.
With these factors in mind, we wanted to highlight four Napa wineries by featuring their wines (mostly red) and their stories. For good measure, there are two white wines, and one wine from Chile!
  • FLORA SPRINGS: First up is the festive labeled wines from Flora Springs: their 2014 etched red wine “Joy to the World” blend, their “Dashaway” Chardonnay, and their flagship blend, “Trilogy.” Flora Springs is famously one of California’s “ghost wineries.”
  • SILVERADO: Comparing and contrast two Cabernet Sauvignon  vineyards in Napa: 2013 Stag’s Leap and 2013 Coombsville. This is an estate with a Disney heritage too!
  • EHLERS ESTATE: A biodynamic cabernet sauvignon from a historic winery.
  • DUCKHORN: Duckhorn’s 3 Palms is Wine Spectator #1 wine (but don’t tell Miles it’s Merlot!) plus Don Melchor 2014 Cabernet from Chile — this wine also made the list, and we tasted the 2012 recently as well as the 2014.

Napa reds not your thing? More of a Bordeaux or sweet wine person? Then you’re in luck: next Saturday we’ve got a line-up of Bordeaux wines plus a Sauterne that will fit your budget! And if you are more of a bubble person, stay tuned: we’ve got a post coming up that looks at bubbles from around the world: France, Oregon, Italy, and Spain! And as they say, all that and more!

Giving the Gift of Wine: #winePW blog topics

Here are the topics the #winePW crew will be covering:

Jade from The Tasting Pour will tell us “How to Choose a Wine Gift

Jeff from foodwineclick will share “Holiday Wine Gift Ideas: Not Just Any Champagne

Cindy from Grape Experiences will post “Wines from The Hess Collection – Will You be Naughty or Nice?”

Here on Cooking Chat we will write about “Christmas Wine Gifts: Tips and Bottles To Give

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm will share “Spreading Christmas Cheer

Michelle from Rockin Red Blog is telling us “How to Give the Gift of Wine

Gwendolyn from Wine Predator will share “Grateful for Good Gifts, Good Stories with Wineries from Napa Good Gifts

Culinary Adventures with Camilla is talking about “Sips Worth Sharing

Jennifer from Vino Travels is covering “Holiday Wines with a Sicilian Flair

Lauren from The Swirling Dervish is blogging about “Family, Food, and Wine: The Gift of Memories

Jill from L’Occasion will share “Wine Wrapped Up: The L’occasion Gift Guide

Be sure to check on Saturday morning for these great articles! We will also hold a live Twitter chat on Saturday, Dec. 9., 11 am Easter Time / 8 a.m. Pacific. Just tune into the #winePW hashtag on Twitter at that time to join the conversation. You can check out past and future #winePW topics by visiting this page.

And if you are moved …


Text UWVC to 41444 and 100% of the donations will go directly to those affected by the fires.

There are many many worthy GoFundMe sites. I have so many friends who have lost everything. As I come across their GoFundMe’s I try to post them on Twitter using the hashtag #ThomasFire. I am going to change that to #ThomasFireGoFundMe to make them easier to find.

Here are a few ways to help:

12 thoughts on “Grateful for Good Gifts, Good Stories with Wineries from Napa #WinePW

  1. Pingback: Wine, Food, and Family: The Gift of Memories (#WinePW) – The Swirling Dervish

  2. How terrifying. I’m sending thoughts of peace, mercy, and healing.

    I am appreciative that you took a few moments to make up a list of wine gifting suggestions. As usual, you nailed it!

    Happy holidays to you and yours, may peace find you and those you love.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Christmas Wine Gifts: Tips and Bottles to Give #winePW | Cooking Chat

  4. Thank you everyone for your support and for stopping by and commenting. It really has been a challenging few weeks, and smoke and the cleanup from the ash seems never ending, and just last night the road between my house and Sue’s was closed because of fire. Sure makes me understand better what Sonoma and Napa went through. We desperately need rain to wash away the smoke and ash and put this fire out for good.


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