Not so long ago, “charity-driven” wineries could get by with donating the occasional case or two of merlot to local fund raising auctions (did you get a taste last year's YMCA “Riesling”?). Today, product donation is hardly worth singing the most famous Christmas aria in history about. From wineries that donate a substantial percentage of their profits to charity, to those that are nonprofits themselves, here are a few good Samaritan — and tasty (if it's not good, you might as well write a check, right?) — wines for your do-good resolution table.
Ehlers Estate, Napa Valley, California
You'd hardly suspect by looking at an elegant Ehlers bottle or stepping into the winery's historic St. Helena tasting room, but this winery gives 100% of its proceeds to charity. The object of Ehlers' affection is cardiovascular research, a cause the French couple who founded the winery have preferred to keep sub rosa. Instead, the Leducq's family foundation has focused on the quality of the winery's bold, full-bodied cabernets and merlots. After all, even if the end result is for a good cause, “La vie est trop courte pour boire du mauvais vin” (Life is too short to drink bad wine).
Bodhichitta Winery, Williamette Valley, Oregon
For those of us who are Born in the U.S.A. do-gooders, we are perhaps a bit more inclined than French ex-pats to proclaim our noble intentions to the world via donor wall plaques, holiday gift cards — or as is the case with Bodhichitta Winery — via a love of drinking and giving. You can read all about the year-old Williamette Valley's giving policies on its website. In the meantime, here's a brief summary: Bodhichitta is run by a volunteer staff led by founder-winemaker Mark Proden, who has spent the past fifteen years raising funds to build more than fifty schools in remote villages in Pakistan (yes, we feel rather Grinch-like right about now, too). Current recipients of Bodhichitta's profits include Central Asia Institute, Alzheimer's Foundation, Autism Society, The Humane Society, and The Nature Conservancy. Right, we all need to add “giving” to our 2010 resolutions.
Lynmar Estate, Russian River Valley, California
This Russian River Valley winery makes top rated wines — and donates organic spinach, kale, tomatoes and other vegetables from its sustainable garden in the process. The greens go to Ceres project, a local non-profit that provides nutritious meals to individuals suffering from life-threatening illnesses. The mission is two fold. The veggies are cooked by local teenagers who don't know how to saute garlic or whip up mashed potatoes. Kids learn to cook, their recipients benefit.
Koz Wine, Sort of Nowhere, Sort of in Napa
True story: jazz saxophone player and six-time Grammy winner Dave Koz met a Whole Foods regional director on a “Smooth Jazz” cruise. Fast forward a year, toss in a Napa shopping trip, and Koz wine was born. This is commission winery (meaning the two have consulted with an existing Napa-based winery, Vinum Cellars, to produce its Cabs and Sauvignon Blancs, all available at Whole Foods). Proceeds (100%) go to the Starlight Children's Foundation.