What To Drink Now: Wines With a Cause

Auction Napa Valley, one of the largest charity events in the country, is put on annually by the Napa Valley Vintners Association in collaboration with their 400+ Napa Valley winery members.  In their 32nd year, and after donating over $100 million to health, youth and affordable housing non-profit programs, the auction continues to show guests both from the valley and throughout the world why Napa is so special.  I was a guest of the Napa Valley Vintners Association to the auction last year and I encourage anyone who can attend to make your plans.  If you aren’t able to attend, you can still be a part of the fun by checking out the incredible online e-auction which starts Sunday. It includes 150 items donated from member wineries and the list is impressive:  large format bottles, trips, wine experiences, and more.

The start of the auction got me thinking about how many wineries really give back to their community and to various charities they believe in.  I have personally partnered with dozens of wineries who have given donations to charitable dinners hosted through Dallas Uncorked, and have attended dozens more where different wineries have stepped up to help because they believe in the cause.  I have been compiling a list of some of my favorites that do a great job of either giving back via charitable organizations, or through foundations or charities they have started.

This is by no means a full list as many wineries and wine families are known for their philanthropic efforts, this is simply a few favorites.  Next time you are in the mood for a great Cab or silky Chardonnay consider one of these. Buying one might help change the life of someone in need.  A few selections have been sent for editorial consideration.

I have been a fan of Rocca Family Vineyards for a while.  Their Grigsby Cabenet Sauvignon from Yountville is robust and racy with lots of black fruit, herbal notes and spice; their Collinetta Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from the recently named Coombsville AVA is balanced and refined with wild flower and lavender notes, followed by blackberry and cherry with touches of vanilla.  Owners Dr. Mary Rocca and her husband Dr. Eric Grigsby founded HeathRoots in 1999 to support health care and community development in under-served communities around the world by promoting education, advocacy, increasing the availability of pain medications.  Most of their work to date has taken place in Malawi in Southeast Africa, partnering with the Mayo Clinic in 2008 to open their Malawi Health Initiative.

When I attended the auction last year I remember enjoying a delicious Cabernet Franc Rose from Ehlers Estate, the Sylviane Rose.  Named after the matriarch of the winery, Madam Sylviane Leducq, and filled with fresh flavors of watermelon, strawberry and orange blossom the dry wine is made from 100% certified organic, estate grown fruit.  Ehlers Estate is a winery that is defined by its philanthropy.  Founded by French entrepreneur and philanthropist Jean Leducq in St. Helena with the inaugural vintage of 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon launching the winery in 2001.  In 2002 Jean Leducq passed away leaving the winery in trust to the not for profit Leducq Foundation.  Today the winery operates with both a strong focus on creating world class wine made sustainably and organically, with 100% of the proceeds going directly to the Leducq Foundation funding international cardiovascular research.

Over the past few years a winery called ONEHOPE has gained recognition for their efforts to raise both awareness and funds for various charitable causes including breast cancer awareness and research, autism, supporting our troops, the fight against AIDS, supporting children’s hospitals and supporting our environment.  Founded by a group of friends in 2007, many of whom had previously been with Gallo, they had a vision of making a great product that could be more than simply the wine in the bottle.  They wanted to give back, and entice others in the generous world we live in to do the same through a bottle of wine.  50% of the profits of every bottle they sell goes to a specific charity = $3 of every bottle of Chardonnay goes to help with breast cancer research.  You can even decide additional donations to give to charities of your choice.  Over $750K has been donated since they started the brand with co-creator/winemaker Rob Mondavi Jr.  And the wine is good, mostly from Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast, California grapes, with a very approachable and easy drinking style.  These aren’t the wines that will be at the top of Parker’s 100 best, but do all those wines contribute as completely as ONEHOPE wines do?  ONEHOPE is also launching a members only online wine store, Craft1933, where members will be able to buy deeply discounted boutique and specialty wine with proceeds benefiting various charities of the winemakers choice..

Last year Penfolds, the high volume and highly popular Australian brand partnered with (RED) to help eliminate AIDS in Africa by donating 15% of every bottle of (Penfolds) RED Koonunga Hill and Thomas Hyland Wines to the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS Internationally.   $190 Million has been donated by (RED) to the fund, helping over 14 million people.  (RED) has the goal to see an AIDS free generation by 2015.  100% of all money donated to (RED) goes to help make this goal a reality.

The Trinchero family has had a long history of giving back and using their numerous brands for good. They have also been a believer in environmentally friendly farming and practicing the highest standards of green farming throughout their estate. It has been the way they worked long before it was trendy.  Trinity Oaks, one of the brands under the Trinchero umbrella, in partnership with the non-profit Trees For the Future, has begun a “one bottle one tree” program to help restore tree coverage in tropical landscapes throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America. Trees planted in the tropics sequester more carbon dioxide each year than trees planted in drier climates.  Quite simply, for each bottle of Trinity Oaks wine you buy they will plant a tree.  Since the program started in 2008 6,971,058….no wait…6,971,062 trees have been planted.

Chateau Ste. Michelle and the many wineries under their Ste. Michelle Wine Estates umbrella have always believed in giving back to their Washington State community, especially to Seattle Children’s Hospital.  This year Chateau Ste. Michelle has been honored by the Auction of Washington State Wines, celebrating their 25th Anniversary later this summer, as the Anniversary Honoree for their tremendous support and generous donations over the years to the auction.  To date this annual event has raised over $26 million and has brought awareness to the incredible wine produced throughout Washington State.  One of the auction events, Revelry, happens this weekend at ColSolare; the rest of the auction festivities occur August 16-18, 2012.