The Wine Industry Launches Scholarships, Funding Efforts to Help Those in Need

Man in vineyard cuts grapes
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As bars and restaurants close due to the coronavirus pandemic, many members of the service industry find themselves out of work. But several international corporations, family-owned wineries, nonprofits and individual collectives are stepping up to keep each other afloat.

A number of wineries have decided to put their money back into the communities where employees live and work. The Jordan Winery and the John Jordan Foundation have made a $150,000 donation to Sonoma Family Meal’s new Restaurant Disaster Relief Fund. The fund will help restaurants remain open to provide meals to those in need.

Andy Beckstoffer of Beckstoffer Vineyards plans to donate $100,000 directly to affected individuals in Napa, Mendocino and Lake Counties, distributed in checks of $300 each.

“We are working with the Chambers of Commerce to help us identify those most in need,” says Beckstoffer. “This way, Beckstoffer [Vineyards] is able to help those most affected, who are on the front line of the hospitality industries.”

The Stoller Wine Group joined forces with The Botanist House and Meals on Wheels People of Portland to provide food to Oregon’s restaurant and hospitality workers, as well as the elderly. A portion of Stoller Wine Group’s sales through May will also help fund that initiative.

“The wine industry shares an ecosystem with the restaurant community,” says Gary Mortensen, president of the Stoller Wine Group. “We knew it was essential we band together to support each other.”

BonAnno Vintners and Matthew Fritz Wines have pledged to donate profits from online wine sales to the restaurant charity organization of the buyer’s choosing through the end of May.

Several new nonprofits, and fresh efforts by established organizations, have emerged to give back to the community. The James Beard Foundation recently launched the Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund to provide micro-grants to independent food and beverage businesses in need of support. Nonprofit Another Round, Another Rally has set up a Pandemic Hospitality Relief Fund, which aims to raise $1.5 million to be disbursed in $500 emergency fund block grants to industry workers.

“We knew it was essential we band together to support each other.” —Gary Mortensen, president, Stoller Wine Group

Data scientist Rachel Woods of The Wine Nerd, along with a slew of community members, started #SupportOurWineries, a social campaign and online platform to document winery-led promotions and initiatives so donors and consumers know where to direct their support.

Sommeliers have been contributing to efforts as well. Chris Blanchard, MS, with some industry peers, has started an emergency fund for U.S. Sommeliers. The board will distribute grants of $250, $500 and $1,000 to those in the greatest need.

“The sommelier isn’t this glamorous position where you collect big bucks and drink fancy wine all day,” says Blanchard. “[The sommelier is] the first person to be let go in a crisis like Covid-19, and will be the last person who gets re-hired.”

Larger corporations are also stepping up to support the industry. Barefoot Wines has pledged $100,000 to Children of Restaurant Employees. Seven other wineries in E. & J. Gallo’s premium wine division—J Vineyards & Winery, Louis M. Martini, Orin Swift, Pahlmeyer, Talbott Vineyards, Whitehaven and William Hill Estate Winery—have pledged $100,000 to support GuildSomm, which provides education and member support to the sommelier community.

Brown-Forman has donated $1 million to various hospitality-focused relief efforts, while Beam Suntory and Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits have pledged $1 million to the U.S. Bartenders Guild (USBG) Emergency Assistance Program and the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation.

Constellation Brands has also contributed $500,000 to the USBG, and $250,000 to first responders. It also pledged $1 million to The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s recently launched Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, which will provide $500 grants to restaurant workers in need.

And even though the Auction Napa Valley event has been canceled for 2020, its donations haven’t been.

“We are grateful to be able to provide ongoing support for the non-profit organizations that are working harder than ever to help our community,” says Linda Reiff, president and CEO of Napa Valley Vintners. “While we are saddened to cancel this year’s event, our pledge is to provide at least the same level of support as we did last year.”

Published on April 14, 2020
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