Nov 2, 2017
Group salvaging winegrape raisins after Napa wildfires

Wine country wildfires have ravaged California, but one group is salvaging unharvested winegrapes and packaging them as raisins.

Segassia Vineyard on Mount Veeder in the Napa region was among the vineyards hit by the fires. The owner, Andrew Cates, also is co-founder of Wine Rayzyn, a company that turns winegrapes into a crunchy non-alcoholic “superfood” snack.

Wine RayZyn was founded in 2014. Drying, uniformly-dimpled winegrapes left on the vine after every harvest – about 3 or 5 percent of the harvest in a regular year – are unsuitable for wine. The company triple-washes the grapes, specially dries them, and heats them so the grape seeds become caramelized and crunchy.

Cates said more winegrapes were left on the vine unharvested this season because of the fires – even if the fruit wasn’t physically damaged, some premium winemakers are not willing to risk how the resulting wine would taste. Cates saw a unique opportunity – harvest the unused, drying grapes and turn them into food.

“This is a way we can really help and do something,” said Cates, who estimates about 75 percent of his property burned in the fire. “We can turn lemons into lemonade.”

The group is seeking $500,000 through a GoFundMe.com page to help collect the grapes, process, market and distribute Wine RayZyns from the fire-hit grapes. Cates is also looking for growers willing to commit grapes still on the vine or help in distribution.

“We’re looking for active commitments from people,” Cates said. “Our goal is not to make money; our goal is to cover our costs and give back.” A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the “Rescue RayZyns” will benefit the Napa, Sonoma and Santa Rosa Fire efforts, and some of the actual RayZyns themselves will be used to feed victims of the hurricane in Puerto Rico and fires in California.

So far, Cates said, more than 200 tons of the grapes have been committed from Segassia Vineyard and multiple other vineyards in the area.

Wine RayZyn Director of Operations Darren Buck said he had recently talked to one of the growers, who expressed a huge sense of relief that the fruit of her labor wouldn’t go to waste.

“There’s no financial benefit to her at this point,” he said. But, “emotionally, there’s a tremendous amount of benefit.

“We’re literally able to salvage something that would otherwise be left to rot on the vine.”

The snacks would be ready sometime from during the first quarter of 2018, Cates said.

Growers or distributors hoping to get in touch with Cates and Buck should email [email protected]. People looking to donate directly to the project may visit www.gofundme.com/ca-fire-rescue-rayzynr-project.

Above: Segassia Vineyard on Mount Veeder was among others in the Napa Valley region where winegrapes won’t be used for wine this season following wildfires.

Stephen Kloosterman, Assistant Editor

 




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