The message on the winery website reads, “We are passionate people. We have extended ourselves at times — physically, emotionally, financially. But the hard work and dedication has been worth it. We are raising our daughter and son on the land that we’ve so carefully, diligently—and yes, passionately—nurtured over the years. And we are humbled by the opportunity to share a little of that with you through the wines we offer.”

The message – along with a beautiful postcard photo of the family walking though the vineyards – should be enough to inspire anyone to visit the winery.

For James and Colleen Harder, owners of James Cole Winery, that photo and message made their story of panic, despair and survival during the fires that much harder to envision.

The family evacuated after the fence surrounding the property vineyard, surrounding homes and a nearby Silverado Trail winery, all burned completely to the ground.

Harder then returned to fight to keep his family and business partner’s life dream from becoming a complete nightmare. What ensued was the fight of his life, and luckily, he did not have to fight alone.

Jim Regusci, another business partner and winemaker, arrived with a crew of friends and neighbors to help fight off flames with the winery’s 10,000-gallon water truck and a bunch of five-gallon water pails.

This column is not meant to relive the horrific turn of events for the Harder family, or tell their heroic story of survival, but it was necessary to better appreciate the following story I discovered when I started getting Facebook updates from the winery as I actually began following them during the fires.

It’s a great – and true story — and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving group of Napa business owners.

Rather than provide my own version, I thought I’d simply share a CliffsNotes version of the actual James Cole Facebook post (shortened, for space purposes only):

December 8, 2017—Just got passed along a cool story that put a smile on our faces. A few years back we were put in touch with a wine collector out of Europe who came to our winery and tasted through a bunch of our Cabs.

About two months later he called and put in a rather large order of different vintages to be transported to Europe.

This gentleman supposedly purchases wines for well-regarded wine collectors, but we never gave it much thought as the wines were paid for and picked up. Well last night my brother who made the original introduction had dinner with the gentleman who passed along the following story.

A few weeks back he was having dinner with a friend – who also happens to be a big purchaser of our wines – when his friend offered to “fetch my favorite California Cabernet Sauvignon from my cellar – one that you actually turned me on to.”

He returned with a bottle of James Cole.

Cool story right?

Well the gentleman who originally acquired our wines is Lord Robert Peerless of Monaco. The other gentleman, who thanked him for turning him on to James Cole, is his friend Prince Albert of Monaco, the dinner took place at the Royal Palace, and the wine was our 2009 Umbral. Here’s to royalty!

Travis Stanley is the president and CEO of the Napa Chamber of Commerce. Call 226-7455 or visit napachamber.com.

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