Behind the Wine

A close call Down Under, Angels rally for fire relief

Sam Plunkett spoke too soon, but fire didn’t get the last word.  

For an Angel-funded winemaker based in one of the Australian states most affected by wildfires that have scorched 15 million acres in the southeastern part of the country since last year, rain was news worth sharing.

Winemaker Sam Plunkett
Sam’s farming site in Victoria.

Sam posted to his wall after a recent night of heavy downpour, confident that the risk of fire near his Victoria property had shrunk.

Then, around 4 p.m. the same day Sam’s optimistic post went up, the call came: 


Flames had sparked, Sam suspects, by a lightning strike and were dangerously close to the eastern edge of his farm.

He sprang into action and raced out to fight it.

10 fire trucks, 50 volunteer firefighters and a water-bombing helicopter soon swarmed the eastern edge of his farm.

Sam and the crews fought for hours…

A firefighting helicopter came to the rescue on the edge of Sam’s farm.
The firefighters who helped beat back the fire near Sam’s farm were all volunteers. Photo provided by Sam Plunkett.

…and near the end of the day, finally beat back the flames.

“Do you have the expression …to put the moz on something…? In Australia it means to jinx something.”

– Followup post from Sam the day of the fire.
The aftermath of the fire on the edge of Sam’s farm.

While Sam’s brush with wildfire ended safely, the scene on his farm has been a familiar one across Victoria and neighboring New South Wales for months.   

Angel-funded winemaker Jen Pfeiffer is also based in Victoria. In a Jan. 9 post on her winemaker wall, Pfeiffer wrote:

Jen Pfeiffer’s home in Victoria, Australia.
Winemaker Jen Pfeiffer

“The scale of the devastation of the fires across Australia is frightening, and I would encourage everyone to contribute to the fire relief appeals in any way that you can.”

Pfeiffer assured Angels that she and her family were safe and their properties were not at risk from fire.

Yet, she wrote, “We have many friends, growers and colleagues based in the King and Alpine Valleys, and around the Corryong area, who are very close to the fires, and who are at far greater risk than us.”

Smoke shrouds a vineyard in Victoria. Photos provided by Jen Pfeiffer.

While safe from the direct path of the fires, smoke has still filled the air near Jen’s home, prompting questions about how smoke might impact wine production this year.

Pfeiffer recently offered Angels an update, writing, “The public response to this crisis, both locally and globally has been inspirational. As a nation, we are so grateful for all the external support offered to our country.” 

Today, all winemakers are safe and out of harm’s way, but not all have fared as well as Jen and Sam:

  • In Adelaide Hills, half of Angel-funded winemaker Randal Tomich’s vines were destroyed, and 30 of his sheep lost.
  • Winemaker Rob Paulazzo’s source vineyard in Tumbarumba is completely gone.
  • Judy and Glen Kelly’s new Albarino vines were seriously damaged.

That’s not to mention the countless farmworkers, cellar hands, and Australian Angels living in the affected areas, that now have a long road back to recovery.

To learn how you can help these winemakers and Australians get back on their feet, visit the Australia Fire Relief page to learn more.

“I have been in the vineyard this morning, and it is a beautiful clear day with no smoke as far as I can see…This brings me hope.”

– Jen Pfeiffer
Roos in the vineyard of Angel-funded winemaker Adam Barton.
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