‘A thank you to our community’: Paradise Ridge Winery lauds Sonoma County’s resilience 5 years after Tubbs Fire
Guests checking in to Sunday evening’s party at the Paradise Ridge Winery in Fountaingrove were politely reminded to hold onto their wine glasses, to ensure the gathering didn’t run out of clean stemware.
“Try taking mine away from me,” wisecracked a man moving through the line.
That attitude permeated the party, a remembrance and celebration of the strength and resolve exhibited by people in Santa Rosa and all over Sonoma County, on the fifth anniversary of the Tubbs Fire, which ignited Oct. 8, 2017 and burned more than 5,600 structures, including the Paradise Ridge Winery.
Rene Byck, a co-owner of the winery and co-host of the get-together, described it as “a ‘thank you’ to our community for the support of our business, their resiliency and creating a road map of how communities like ours can prepare for a disaster.”
The soiree was organized by county Supervisor James Gore and executed by the indefatigable Jenny Chamberlain, his 4th District director.
Other than the hush that fell over the grounds when Supervisor Susan Gorin called for a moment of silence to remember the 22 lives lost in the Tubbs Fire, the mood was far more festive than funereal. Like the man holding fast to his wine glass, people were ready to party.
Guests included first responders, block captains, community leaders and elected officials such as Gore, Gorin, Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Rogers and U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.
Among the evening’s final speakers, Huffman began his remarks by noting, “The only thing standing between you all and another glass of great wine is a congressman with a microphone.”
Byck said his decision to host the gathering was made easier by a generous donation from Ruthie Martin, owner of the Urban Tree Farm Nursery. He also expressed deep gratitude to Willi’s Wine Bar and Sweet T’s. Both burned in the Tubbs Fire, and both provided food for Sunday’s festivities.
Having attended another 5-Year Memorial in Coffey Park the previous morning, Richard Lane and his wife, Alison, arose Sunday morning “with a real sense of gratitude,” he said.
Gratitude for what? “There are so many great people that we met that we didn't know before the fire,” he replied. “People who believe in community and sweat equity.”
Instead of a swimming pool with waterfall Jacuzzi and palm trees in their backyard, he and Alison now have “the backyard we always wanted,” featuring a 5,000-gallon rain capture tank, a greywater re-use water conservation system sustaining a “water-conserving food forest.”
The previous evening, Pamela Van Halsema had joined some of her Coffey Park neighbors for “a little potluck” on their street — “some wine, some food, just celebrating,” said Van Halsema, now the director of community and digital programs at the nonprofit After the Fire.
“I think the Coffey Park answer to most things is, ‘Let’s just have a party,’” she added, with a smile. After all, “relationships are part of resilience.”
“I’ve had chills all day,” said Gore, who served as a kind of emcee at the winery. He honored fire survivors, and spoke on behalf of “those of us whose lives changed through you, through your struggle, through your stages of grief, through the lessons you taught us, through your heartaches, through your hopes. Through your demands, through your outrage.”
On this night, at least, outrage, like wine glasses, was in short supply.
You can reach Staff Writer Mya Constantino at email@example.com. @searchingformya on Twitter.
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