Robin Cant and Cynthia Kerson were neighbors on Dry Creek Road, although they didn’t meet until the wildfires of 2017.
Cant had moved into her new home two months earlier, and Kerson had just completed renovations on hers when orders came through to evacuate the area in the west Napa hills that October.
Two years later, they not only have become friends but they are pooling their experience in hospitality and fund-raising to support the firefighting and fire-prevention resources that saved their homes as the fires threatened the Dry-Creek area.
Beginning in 2020, as co-chairwomen of the Mt. Veeder Fire Safe Council, they will continue the Home Winemakers Classic that for 35 years has raised funds to support the Dry Creek-Lokoya-Volunteer Fire Department.
Earlier this year, Fire Chief Gary Green announced his retirement. Noting that there was no one available to continue to organize the popular annual event, he offered it to another non-profit interested in carrying on the tradition in which local home winemakers pour tastes of their creations for the public.
“It’s a fun community event,” he said. “I’d hate to see it go away.”
When Cant and Kerson learned about Green’s plan, they decided it was important not only that the Home Winemakers Classic go on, but that it continue to support firefighting.
The Mt. Veeder Fire Safe Council will allocate the funds raised as needed to fire prevention programs and to the Dry Creek-Lokoya Volunteer Fire Department, which also receives money from the county budget.
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“It’s a great next move,” said Green, who was contacted by 23 nonprofits interested in taking up the Classic. “These ladies had the brilliant solution to keep this local for fire prevention. They understand fire. They also bring a fresh perspective.”
Cant and Kerson have been attending meetings as Green prepares for the next Home Winemakers Classic on Saturday, July 27, at the CIA at Copia in Napa. Green will continue to serve on the committee, he said, when Cant and Kerson take it over.
The Classic, often called “the poor man’s wine auction,” not only offers visitors a chance to meet home winemakers and taste their wines, but they can also bid on a spectacular auction, filled with donations from wineries who also have cause to be grateful to the firefighters.
“It’s an amazing silent auction,” said Green, who at last count had 200 donations of wines and gift certificates from wineries including Harlen, Cade, Chateau Potelle, Far Niente, Turnbull Cellars, Mayacamus and Benessere.
Greg and Kasandra Weinerth, who will be among the 32 home winemakers at this year’s event, agreed the solution for their “conference for home winemakers” is one that is making everyone happy.
“This is when we see what everyone else is doing,” Greg Weinerth said. A panel judges the wines and guests also can vote for their favorites.
“What was beautiful was how the community came together during the fires and now we will continue to work together,” said Cant, whose husband John has joined the volunteer firefighters group.