When Judy Jordan sold J Vineyards & Winery in 2015, she wanted her next wine venture to reflect terrific vineyard sites and skilled winemaking, as all great wineries do. But she also had a larger purpose in mind—to help young women succeed in the agricultural community, the often-unseen heart and soul of the wine industry. So she tied her new brand—Geodesy—directly to a program she named Wild Goat Edge that connects young women to teachers, mentors, and internship sponsors who can empower them in agricultural roles. All profits from Geodesy wines go directly to the organization.
The wines, in this case, give up nothing for charity. The Geodesy tagline says that much: “Drink well. Do good. It’s that simple.” It was important to winemaker Megan Baccitich (former director of winemaking for Paul Hobbs Wines) to lead with luxury, with wines that remain true to their site through a “purity of aromatics, faceted structure, and nuanced tension that tells the story of the vintage and how we as winegrowers are inspired and haunted by it.”
In fact, the vineyard Jordan and her team settled on in Napa Valley (Geodesy also owns vineyards in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills and Chehalem Mountains AVAs) is itself inspiring and haunting. High on Sage Ridge, not far from the likes of Chappellet and Colgin, the vineyard is a steep and wild tapestry of aspects and elevations. It was a little bit of a “diamond in the rough,” admits Scott Zapotocky, vice president of winegrowing. They imagined a fair amount of replanting, to upgrade vineyard blocks, but not the wholesale erosion control they were catapulted into after the first wet winter. “This is the most extreme vineyard I’ve ever worked with,” he says. “It’s dynamic geologically.” With slopes up to almost 1,500 feet, exposed to wind and weather, farming here is decidedly on the proverbial edge.
And isn’t that so often the case, with the world’s great wine sites? Zapotocky is bullish on Sage Ridge and its capacity for producing profound wines of place. “We’ll find out what each vintage gives us,” he says. “Some blocks might sing a little louder some years.” And their first vintage off the land, Geodesy 2016 Sage Ridge Vineyard Red ($175), bodes well. Native yeast–fermented and unfined and unfiltered, the Cabernet-based blend opens with brooding notes of toasted spice, dark chocolate, and tobacco leaf. Generous, almost voluptuous dark raspberry fruit is ripe yet full of juicy freshness, backed by savory herbal notes, crushed-rock minerality, and a structured backbone.
Judy Jordan’s charity is striking, in that she’s committed Geodesy entirely to a social issue. In truth, though, it would be hard to find another industry that gives as much to chosen causes. With events, brands, bottles and more, vintners are raising large sums in the cause of fighting diseases, disasters and deficiencies. And supporting them is a chance to be part of valuable solutions. Here are a few wines and causes high on our radar.
Blueprint 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Robin Lail, from one of Napa Valley’s most historic wine families (her great-grand-uncle, Captain Gustave Niebaum, founded Inglenook), has skin in the game when it comes to fighting climate change: Last year she was named the U.S. Representative to the Porto Protocol, a global initiative that brings companies together to share best practices on climate action. And 10 percent of online sales of Lail Vineyards Blueprint label benefit Cool Effect, an organization backing carbon-reducing projects around the globe. The 2017 Blueprint Cabernet opens with red currant, plum, anise, cedar, and sweet pipe tobacco. Lush mixed berry flavors follow, bright and creamy, wrapped in chalky tannins. ($80)
Vital Wines 2017 The Given, Columbia Valley
Ashley Trout, founder of Flying Trout Wines and now Brook & Bull in Walla Walla Valley, Washington, is the force behind the nonprofit Vital brand. All proceeds go to the SOS Clinic, which provides free healthcare to winery and vineyard workers. This beautifully balanced blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (67 percent) and Syrah (33 percent) opens with earthy notes, marked by white pepper. Cassis flavors reveal the Cabernet, while notes of crushed herbs and tobacco speak of the Syrah. ($28)
Ehlers Estate 2016 Portrait Red Blend, St. Helena, Napa Valley
The Leducq Foundation, which owns Ehlers Estate, donates about $30 million a year to cardiovascular research. This lovely Bordeaux blend (Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot) offers high-toned floral aromas mixed with toasty notes. A smooth and elegant palate carries concentrated red fruit—cherry and cassis—with a satisfying, savory finish. ($75)
Halleck Vineyard 2015 Find Your Light Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
All of the profits from this collaboration between the Halleck Vineyard team and Grammy Award–nominated singer/songwriter Josh Groban go to Groban’s Find Your Light Foundation, designed to ensure that children have the chance to experience a quality arts education. The wine is beautifully aromatic, with warmly spiced cherry and floral notes, followed by a silky palate brimming with persistent red fruit and a touch of minerality popping on a long finish. ($55)
Kelleher Family Vineyards 2013 Bari’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa Valley
Close to the Kelleher Family’s heart is the issue of Juvenile Diabetes, which three of their children were diagnosed with from the ages of 1 to 8 years old. Proceeds from their Bari’s Vineyard Cabernet—a tribute to Bari—go to nonprofits working to find a cure. Made from a tiny vineyard near their Brix restaurant in Oakville, the 2013 is generous with juicy black fruit (blackberry and plum) layered with exotic spices, licorice, dark chocolate, and elegant tannins. (750 ml $190, 3-pack $570, 6-pack $1,140)
There are also wine-related causes that give back:
Sonoma County Vintners Foundation Emergency Relief Fund
While the Kincade Fire was still burning in Sonoma this last fall, Dan Kosta (cofounder of Kosta Browne) had already offered members of his AldenAlli mailing list the chance to donate to the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation Emergency Relief Fund in return for a case of extremely limited Pinot Noir from his archives. Kosta’s motivation is personal—he lost his own home in the Tubbs Fire of 2017.
Vineyards to Villages
Led by Dry Creek Vineyard and its founder, David Stare, V2V (Vineyards to Villages) is a partnership between Sonoma County vintners and multiple African communities to develop clean water infrastructure, sanitation facilities, and community water kiosks to fight waterborne diseases. Other wineries supporting the partnership include Acorn, Sbragia Family Vineyards, and Trione Vineyards & Winery.
The Jack L. Davies Napa Valley Agricultural Land Preservation Fund
When Jack Davies passed away, in 1998, his family established the Jack L. Davies Napa Valley Agricultural Land Preservation Fund, to support future ag preservation and education. It in effect carries on a life effort of Davies, who 50 years ago played an instrumental role in establishing the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve, which has played a critical role in the valley’s development as a world-class winegrowing region instead of being crowded out by housing and business developments. The family contributes a portion of the proceeds from the sale of their Schramsberg “Queréncia” sparkling wine to the fund.
Napa’s Staglin Family has been phenomenally successful in raising funds for an array of brain health initiatives (more than $450,000 to date), primarily through their annual, high-profile Music Festival for Brain Health. And from the sales of their Salus wines, 100 percent of proceeds go to their One Mind nonprofit.