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Vineyards to Villages Wine Safari in November

Dry Creek Vineyard in Sonoma County.

Turning water into wine is a neat trick, but turning wine into water can save lives: Help do that by attending the annual Vineyards to Villages Wine Safari, Nov. 10-12, 2017, with advance tickets on sale now.

Vineyards to Villages is a partnership between Sonoma County wineries and a Sonoma County nonprofit with a mission to improve access to healthy water in rural East Africa.

All it takes to pitch in and help is to go on this wine safari. The annual Vineyards to Villages Wine Safari presents an entire weekend of wine tasting for just one ticket fee, plus a raffle, winemaker dinners, and more — with hotel discounts, to boot. And 100 percent of the ticket price goes directly to water projects at schools in East Africa.

Much of the talk about water here in Sonoma County wine country concerns our local creeks, and the impact that water usage and quality can have on endangered fish. Efforts have been made to restore creek habitat and monitor and reduce water use in the vineyard and in the winery.

But in rural East Africa, access to safe water can mean the difference between life and death.

The link between Sonoma County wine and African water was made in 2014 thanks to board president Dave Stare. As the now-retired founder of Sonoma County’s pioneering Dry Creek Vineyards winery, Stare is also involved in fish habitat restoration projects close to home.

After soliciting funds from larger wineries with deep pockets, the Vineyards to Villages team created a way for Sonoma County’s smaller, boutique wineries to contribute by offering a designated wine with a percentage of sales benefitting the program, and participating in the main tasting event in November.

Global Partners for Development is a small, Rohnert Park-based nonprofit organization founded in 1978. Today, they operate in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, providing grants and helping to set up programs for water access in underserved areas, particularly focusing on schools and the educational benefits they’ve statistically linked to access to fresh drinking water and reduced suffering from water-born disease.

The organization claims that 970,000 people have been directly served from their water systems projects.

“We’re very much responsive to the communities request for us,” says Amy Holter, director of programs and evaluation at Development. “We don’t go into communities and say, ‘we know what you need.’ We get grant applications from the communities.” Global Partners then provides financial support and monitoring.

You don’t need a guide or a Land Rover for this safari — but a designated driver might help. Early bird (or “early ostrich,” as they’re calling them) tickets are just $40, with general admission $50. The winemaker lunch at scenic Fritz Underground Winery is $50, and the dinner at Christopher Creek $125, with a chocolate pairing at Pedroncelli for $25. Other benefits include discounts at local restaurants and area lodging including Hotel Les Mars in Healdsburg and Hampton Inn & Suites in nearby Windsor.

Participating wineries are located in Zinfandel hotspot Dry Creek Valley through Russian River Valley Pinot Noir country, and there’s even one all the way down in Petaluma: Dry Creek Vineyard, Fritz Underground Winery, Christopher Creek Winery, Pedroncelli Winery, Sbragia Family Vineyards, Viszlay Vineyards, Portalupi Wine, Merriam Vineyards, Windsor Tasting Lounge, Beneficiis Wines, DaVero Farms & Winery, Kobler Estate Winery, Kokomo Winery, Papapietro Perry Winery, Barber Cellars, Bennett Valley Cellars, and ACORN Winery.

Meanwhile, wines that support V2V can be found at these wineries: Christopher Creek Winery, Fritz Underground Winery, Pedroncelli Winery, The Windsor Tasting Lounge, and Viszlay Vineyards.

V2V Wine & Food Safari Weekend, Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, 9:30 a.m. through Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, 8pm. $40–$125. 

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