Choose a label, choose a cause

Paul Newman once said of Newman’s Own, his charitable food service organization, “It started as a joke and got out of control.” Newman’s Own food line began at holiday time with Newman making vats of salad dressing and bottling it as gifts for friends. Virtually everyone agreed this was an easily marketable product. A bit of research, a bit of putting a food service infrastructure in place and Newman’s Own was off to the races.

I know when I shop, if I have an opportunity to buy a great product and help a charity, as opposed to supporting corporate profits alone, I will support the charity.  Newman’s Own, born in 1982, has to date contributed more than $400 million to various causes. The product line now includes pizza, salsa, popcorn and cereal, among other foods. The recipients are philanthropic organizations, including environmental, pediatric research, nutritional and empowerment groups.

When I think of compassion and wine, it usually involves opening something special for some special people. They might have had a tough day and need to hit the reset button. Or they might have had a great day and are looking for a “liquid high five.”

Throughout the world, wineries have been paying attention to the environment, considering themselves stewards of the land, protecting and preserving it for future generations. Some wineries commit to donating a small percentage of sales for a fixed amount of time to support some specific cause. But there is a new breed of wineries out there that are changing the way some people shop and order wine.

Vintners Charitable Cooperative pairs up with a couple of wineries, such as Chappellet in California. VCC donates up to 50 percent of the profits to various charities.  Benefit Wines ( is an organization that sources Chilean wines, and you can click on any of hundreds of links for various causes — from wild animals to veterans to specific diseases — to donate much of the profits.  Lookout Ridge winery in northern California sells premium wine retailing for more than $100 per bottle. But for every bottle sold, it will donate a wheelchair to someone in need. The wheelchair donation costs Lookout Ridge more than the bottle price, an accountant’s nightmare but a worthwhile one.

Most everyone has been affected either personally or through a friend by some significant disease or situation, or is passionate about some specific issue, such as large cat protection. Shopping for wine used to be just picking your region, the grape, the price and the producer. Simple. But now you can support virtually any cause you can imagine. Google your issue, your cause or your passion and add “wine” to the search and something will appear. The wines of the world have never been better with so many lovely and affordable options. Today you can open up something good and support your cause. One more reason to keep that corkscrew handy.

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