Like many Californians, winemakers Megan and Ryan Glaab woke up the morning after the 2016 presidential election feeling confused, angry and, well, hungover. They griped to family and friends about the new commander in chief and lamented the direction they feared the country would take. Then they vowed to resist, even though at the time they didn’t know quite how.
Then, early this year, on a road trip to their home in Healdsburg from Monterey, it hit them: They could fight back by doing what they do best. So they made wine.
The resulting label, Uphold Wines, launched in March, is a sister to Ryme Cellars in Forestville, and it donates 100 percent of the profits from each sale to different national charities that support women, civil rights and the environment, including Earthjustice, She Should Run and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Uphold isn’t the only fledgling winery forged this year with a political mission. Across Sonoma County, a handful of labels have begun donating part of their profits to progressive nonprofit organizations. And so far customers seem to approve of the effort in a big way — seeking out these charity wines and buying them in droves.
“We had no idea there’d be so much interest,” says Megan Glaab, who notes that many of Uphold’s 2,000 cases have sold. “The idea of wine with purpose really seems to resonate with people.”
Matt Grove would agree. Along with Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage, Grove is co-owner of Equality Vines, a winery in Guerneville that partners with well-known winemakers around the region and gives a portion of every sale to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-friendly charities, as well as the League of Women Voters. Equality opened a tasting room in downtown Guerneville on Sept. 1.
“Wine is a wonderfully unique product in that it always has the ability to bring people together,” Grove says.
Larger, more established wineries have joined the philanthropic fray as well.
At Iron Horse Vineyards in Sebastopol, for instance, each sale of Gratitude, a new cuvee set to launch this fall, will raise $5 for the Redwood Empire Food Bank, which serves people in need from Sonoma to the Oregon border. This wine joins Iron Horse’s Ocean Reserve, a sparkling Blanc de Blancs that debuted in 2007, and for every bottle sold, $4 is donated to he National Geographic’s Ocean Initiative for to help establish marine protected areas and support sustainable fishing around the world.
All told, CEO Joy Sterling expects Gratitude to raise about $10,000 and says the Ocean Reserve has generated nearly $500,000 to date.
“Ingredient X in our wines is a combination of the people, commitment and dedication behind the label,” she says. “The causes we support reflect our priorities as a family with a long history of giving back.”
Even the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville has embraced philanthropy in winemaking; earlier this summer the winery released Bee’s Box, a new wine label that donates 10 percent of profits to organizations protecting bees and other pollinators. So far, the label comprises two wines: a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir. Winemaker Tondi Bolkan says more varieties could be on the way next year.
Admittedly, each of these wineries is making small steps toward helping philanthropies achieve their goals. Still, as Glaab puts it, small steps on the march toward progress always are better than no steps at all.
“We got ourselves into the current political situation is because we became complacent,” Glaab says. “For that reason alone, anything we can do to make a difference helps.”