On Tuesday afternoon, a very, very long table — stretching more than 500 feet — materialized, as if by magic, in the middle of a vineyard at the Napa/Sonoma county line.
Called “The Grateful Table,” the tableaux was installed as a fundraiser in support of Northern Californians whose homes and businesses were impacted by the wine country fires.
Created by hospitality and visitor-serving businesses including Visit California, Chef Tyler Florence and a catering company called Outstanding in the Field, the party was meant to send out the message that wine country is ready to host tourists following October’s devastating fires. Organizers hope to raise $500,000 for fire relief.
The centerpiece of the Grateful Table party was that single, extremely elongated table set with white tablecloths, silverware, ceramic plates, real wine glasses and fresh flowers.
To serve the expected 500 guests, many from the travel industry, a series of pop-up kitchens and serving stations were installed nearby. Spread amongst the vines were beverage stations, a photo spot, a make-your-own boutonniere station and a row of portable toilets.
Located near the county border where Ramal Road and Duhig Road meet, there was no winery or home seen nearby. Just open vineyards.
“It’s gorgeous,” Stephanie Leavitt, director of sales and marketing for Bardessono Hotel & Spa and Hotel Yountville, said as she looked around.
Leavitt said the long table with outdoor dining made her wonder how her hotels might create a similar experience for their guests.
Her hotels had fewer visitors in October than normal, said Leavitt. “We certainly had cancellations.”
However, in the past two weeks calls for group visitors have picked up, said Leavitt. Notably, a number of those groups have specifically asked what they might to do when they arrive to contribute to the community and the fire recovery. “People have a passion for the area and getting it back on its feet,” she said.
The cost for the Grateful Table lunch was $500 for a single ticket and $4,000 for a table of eight. A $250 Share the Love donation bought a seat for a first responders or resident affected by the fires.
The meal, served family-style, included clam chowder, fall squash soup, fried Brussels sprouts, leafy greens, butternut squash risotto, Sonoma turkey, lamb, bread and sticky fig cake in a jar.
One hundred percent of ticket sales will be donated to four community groups working on fire recovery efforts, split among the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund, Sonoma County Resilience Fund, Mendocino County Disaster Fund and the California Restaurant Association Foundation.
“It’s amazing,” said guest Joanne Vitale-Feland of Santa Rosa, as she looked at the table trailing into the countryside. Vitale-Feland said she was happy to participate because “You know your contribution is going to a good cause.”
It’s important to support the community impacted by the fires, said her friend, Judy McLaughlin of Corte Madera. “It’s going to take them a long time to rebuild.”
Maryanne Mc Darby, from Spain, writes a travel blog and gives tours in California.
“Last month was pretty slow” for tours, Mc Darby said. Many of her guests were sticking to San Francisco instead of venturing into wine country. However, through visitor marketing and events like the Grateful Table, “I hope we can turn this situation around.”
Lisa Poppen, vice president, marketing and communication at Visit Napa Valley, said the planners lucked out with the weather.
While Monday was overcast and cool, on Tuesday “the weather is stunning.”
“We’re just happy to pull everyone together and start Thanksgiving early,” said Poppen. “We have a lot to be thankful for.”