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UK trade reaches out as Cali fire claims homes, lives and historic vineyards

Published:  12 October, 2017

The UK trade has begun to rally around its friends and colleagues in California where fire continues to wreak havoc on residents and businesses.

At the time of writing (5.30pm, October 12, GMT), feedback from the area is that the fire continues to gain momentum, with the US’ National Weather Service warning within the last hour that "critical fire weather conditions" will persist for at least the next three days.

While US fire fighters continue to battle the elements, members of the UK drinks trade, including California specialist Roberson Wine, have begun to raise funds for immediate relief as well as lay the groundwork for recovery.

Today, the London-based merchant launched a JustGiving page to support two relief funds: Sonoma County Resilience Fund, and the Napa Valley Community Fund, which are both currently providing on the ground support by helping to distribute food, shelter and health services.

Roberson, which represents 30 Californian producers, said it wanted to “galvanise” the UK trade’s support for affected-areas such as Sonoma, where 1 in 4 people work in the wine trade and Napa, where the number is closer to 1 in 2.

Shana Dilworth, on-trade sales account manager at Roberson Wine said today that immediate relief is necessary, but producers in the area will need long-term support as the extent of the damage is yet to emerge.

She said: “This will be an industry-wide issue that will affect producers at all levels. For many of the producers that we represent, they pour all of their money into buying fruit and produce small quantities each year.

“We’re still waiting to find out the extent of the damage but we think it will be years before we can fully understand the economic impact. Our interest here is in helping the community to rebuild this beautiful and very special place.”

Multinationals have also reached out to California including tech giants Apple, Google and Facebook which have pledged a combined $2.5m to relief efforts.

The fire is not a single blaze but several, which have spanned eight counties and so far laid waste to 69,000 hectares of land and destroyed 3,500 buildings.

The deadliest of the blazes, known as the Tubbs fire, has led to the evacuation of Napa-based Calistoga – a historic resort town known for its wine production and tourism.

The town’s 5,000 residents have been told to leave their homes in the last 24 hours as winds threaten to push the flames further north.

Roberson Wine will also be donating a proportion of sales this month towards the relief effort and is organising  a fundraising event.

California Wine Bantz at 10 Cases, (16 Endell St, London WC2H 9BD) will be held on 22 October in tandem with Wine Source, Liberty Wines and other supporters.