Wash. vintners rally to support burned-out Calif. wine country

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SEATTLE - The fires that have devastated the heart of California wine country have hit close to home with Washington state winemakers. The Washington Wine Industry is now rallying to support its California colleagues.

A special fundraiser called "Washington Wine Cares" on Monday night at The Factory Luxe will feature the prized wines of some pros.

20 sommeliers along with winemakers and wine industry professionals have donated wines from their personal collection. They hope you'll come enjoy the wine and make a donation.

Christopher Gronbeck, the owner of the Barrel Thief in Fremont, donated several bottles.

“When you see something like this happen to someone else, you could imagine what it would mean if it happened to you,” said Gronbeck.

“We’ve had 100s of bottles of wine already donated that are really beautiful wines. So, our goal is to make sure enough wine enthusiasts who want to try some of these wines will show up and dig deep into their pockets,” said David LeClaire, the fundraiser organizer. LeClaire is a sommelier and the founder of Seattle Uncorked.

The event will raise money to help fire victims in Sonoma and Napa counties - one wine industry lending a helping hand to another.

"Even though the Washington wine industry competes with the California wine industry, in this kind of situation, there's no competition," said LeClaire. "It's all about how we can support each other."

The fire has devastated California's wine country, leaving many people there without homes.

"Sometimes people think people have insurance - they'll be fine. But it isn't just about getting paid back later for losses today, but there are people who lost their homes, they've lost their pets, they've lost their ability to make money," says the LeClaire. "Our goal is to help them help themselves the fastest we can."

The money going to a good cause, directly donating to Sonoma Strong and Napa Valley Relief Fund.

The need is now.

Christina Donley of West Seattle is the Regional Sales Manager with Ridge Vineyards. Donley says the fire came within five miles of the vineyard's Lytton Springs location in Healdsburg, California.

"It was very touch and go for a couple of our employees," she says. "It's jarring to say the least. We're so fortunate it didn't get to us."

She says California's wine industry is grateful for every bit of help - and when it comes from the Washington wine industry or people in the Seattle region - it means a lot.

The "Washington Wine Cares" fundraiser is Monday night from 6 to 10 p.m. It's in SoDo at The Factory Luxe (at The Old Rainier Brewery.) There is no cost to attend.

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