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Festive Home Winemaker's Classic

The atmosphere was congenial at the 2015 Home Winemakers Classic at the Charles Krug Winery. Organizers are looking for a new nonprofit sponsor for the event in 2020.

Wanted: one local non-profit in need of a great fundraiser.

The Home Winemakers Classic, which for 36 years has raised funds for the Dry Creek-Lokoya Volunteer Fire Department, has reached a turn in its benevolent road.

Fire Chief Gary Green is retiring after 41 years, and with no one else available to organize the annual event, the 2019 Home Winemakers Class on July 27 at the CIA at Copia will be the last one produced in association with his station.

The Home Winemakers association, however, wants to continue its popular event and members are looking for a new local non-profit to work with them in 2020.

Green said the event raised funds for the volunteer fire fighters to maintain the remote station on Dry Creek Road. (As part of the county fire department, they are also supported by the county budget.) After expenses, they generally netted $10,000-$20,000, he said.

Beyond this, however, he said, “It’s a fun community event. I’d hate to see it go away.”

Home winemakers Greg and Kasandra Weinerth agree. “It’s a conference for home winemakers,” Kasandra Weinerth said.

“It’s a chance to get together and see what everyone is doing,” Greg added.

Twenty-nine home winemakers brought their creations to the 2018 event. Guests at the Classic can taste the wines, although by law they can’t be sold.

The event also includes, however, an auction of wines donated by local wineries, and this impressive list is one reason the Home Winemakers Classic is often called the Poor Man’s Wine Auction.

Last year, Bill Harlan sent over three bottles of his hard-to-come-by Harlan wines, and this year he is donating again. “He lives on the hill,” Green said. The donation was to support the firefighters who helped save his property during the 2017 wildfires.

Another neighboring vintner supporting the event is Jean-Noel Formeaux, owner of VSP Chateau Potelle in St. Helena. Benessere, Black Stallion and Cain are also among those who donate wines for the auction.

Throughout the years, the Home Winemakers Classic has been held at different locations throughout the valley, but the move in 2018 to the Culinary Institute of America at Copia in Napa was a good one, Green said. Held from 4 to 6:30 p.m., it attracted visitors from the nearby Oxbow Public Market, curious to know what was going on, in addition to the locals who traditionally gather for it. Holding it inside proved to be a positive move, given the unpredictable nature of weather on a July afternoon. “Everyone was comfortable,” Greg Weinerth said.

Pulling together the event “takes a dedicated crew,” Green said, but over the years of doing it, the team of firefighters and winemakers have refined their program to where “it’s a “plug and play system.”

A non-profit interested in taking it over could begin working now with the committee as it puts together the 2019 event, Greg Weinerth said.

“They could come to the planning meetings and attend the event,” Green said. “They’d see how we do it. We’d be able to say, ‘Here is what you need.’”

Items they would need include chairs and tables, but the Dry Creek-Lokoya Fire Department Department has purchased these and stores them at the fire station. “I’m sure my board would hold a ‘fire sale,’” Green said with a grin.

Non-profits interested in taking over the Home Winemakers’ Classic should contact Chief Green at chief16@me.com.

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Features Editor

Sasha Paulsen has been features editor at the Napa Valley Register since 1999. A graduate of Napa High School, she studied English at UC Berkeley and St. Mary's College and earned a Masters in Journalism from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.