Whether you’re toasting a special occasion, complimenting a healthy meal or simply sipping to relax after a stressful day, there are many reasons to enjoy a glass of wine. That’s because wine makes us feel happier ─ quite literally. The alcohol in wine has been shown to trigger the production of dopamine in the brain and, thus, cause cheeriness.
Well, there’s another good reason to feel happy about drinking wine. You see, some winemakers give back to important causes, including those impacting the disability community. Research suggests that when we do something good, a happiness high ensues. That means choosing wines wisely can stimulate the “do good, feel phenomenon.” Talk about a spot-on definition of “happy hour!”
Here’s a list of wines that support disability initiatives:
Aspen Lane Wine Company
Bob and Sonya Evanosky, of Aurora, Illinois, opened the city’s first winery in 2016. Their business venture came to life after the couple realized their love for winemaking could further their goal of raising money for charities serving people with disabilities.
The Evanoskys are parents to three children — one of whom is deceased — and each was diagnosed with a genetic disorder called metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD). This rare condition affects the nerves in both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. There is currently no known cure for MLD, but the Evanoskys are helping to work toward one.
They established the Evanosky Foundation, and then the Aspen Lane Wine Company which, occasionally, incorporates an inclusive workforce into their small operation. And this business is truely a labor of love. “We are 100% social enterprise which means we give all of our profit away once our expenses are paid. My wife and I take no salary,” Bob shared with AmeriDisability.
The company offers eight different wine varieties, most of which are branded with labels featuring their children. Wine drinkers can make purchases in their store or online (to be shipped). All sale proceeds, which recently surpassed $500,000, have impacted the mission of 35 charities thus far and counting, all of which engage in research, treatment, programs or other efforts supporting people with disabilities.
Wine country resident Colby Groom was born with a hole in his heart and a deformed aortic valve. Like Colby, approximately 40,000 babies in the U.S. are born each year with some type of congenital heart disease (CHD), which is the nation’s leading cause of birth defects.
Colby underwent open-heart surgeries and, eventually, became a passionate volunteer for the American Heart Association. When he was just 11 years old, kind-hearted Colby asked his father, a winemaker, to collaborate on a new wine variety to benefit heart disease research. Together, they created Colby Red, a blend of five grape varieties with aromas of cherries, raspberries and star anise.
In 2017, Colby Red became the first “cause-marketed” wine to achieve the milestone of $1 million in donations to charities. This smooth-finish wine is sold at Total Wine, Walgreens and other major retailers.
CK Mondavi & Family
CK Mondavi and Family wines declare themselves as “the first and only to be 100% Made in USA Certified.” The longstanding brand, based in Napa Valley for 75 years, literally pours out its patriotic roots by supporting the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (IFHF). This effort builds centers that treat military personnel suffering the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other disabilities.
CK Mondavi & Family has donated more than $215,000 to IFHF. Plus, sale proceeds from the company’s Purple Heart Wines red blend benefit veterans and their families through the Purple Heart Foundation.
At EFESTĒ, winemaking is inspired by family and made by family. With two winery locations in Washington state (Seattle and Woodinville), the business is jointly owned by Helen and Daniel Ferrelli along with their daughter and son-in-law, Angela and Kevin Taylor.
Angela and Kevin’s son, Joe, was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. He was just five years old at the time of diagnosis. With a namesake conveying the remarkable strength that Joe displayed during his treatment, EFESTĒ launched its Tough Guy line to benefit research and programs led by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Tough Guy wine is silky with scents of cherry, lavender and olive.
EFESTĒ also hosts its annual Rockin’ Sips Benefit party to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Ehlers Estate is a vineyard winery located in St. Helena. Through a charitable trust, it is owned by the Leducq Foundation. Proceeds from tastings and wine sales benefit the Leducq Foundation, which is an international grant-making organization dedicated to advancing research in cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Inspired by a friend’s battle with cancer, one of the founders started raising money for a health cause by humbling hosting wine tastings. The concept of gathering for wine to benefit an important cause took off and, so, ONEHOPE became an official, intentional winemaker.
ONEHOPE is now one of the largest direct-to-consumer wineries in the world and has proudly donated over $8 million to local and global causes, mostly centered on access to clean water, education, disability support and health research.
One of ONEHOPE’s primary initiatives is aiding members of the autism community. The company has sponsored many children with autism from low-income families to attend camps, therapy programs and receive other educational scholarships. Additionally, ONEHOPE has granted holiday presents, experiences and much more to families with children who have various special needs.
Rosewood Services was founded in 1998 with a goal to foster independence, inclusion and productivity through education, work, recreation and housing for people with developmental disabilities in Central Kansas. In addition to empowering people with disabilities through medical, residential and case-management services, Rosewood Services offers unique job coaching and vocational training.
Rosewood Services operates with an inclusive staff of horse ranchers, studio artists, culinary staffers, furniture builders, clerical assistants, a lawn crew and, yes, winemakers. About two dozen vino employees with disabilities participate in the entire winemaking process, from filtration to packaging to shipping. In 2021 alone, Rosewood Winery bottled 3,000 gallons of wine!
Rosewood Winery claims to be the only winery in the country designed to provide employment opportunities to people with developmental disabilities.
Staglin Family Wine
Founded in 1985, the Staglin Family Vineyard operates a sustainable company by farming organically and using solar power. In addition to those impressive efforts, their business motto says it all: “Great wines for great causes.” The Staglin Family has helped raise more than $1 billion to support charities, including its main effort of sponsoring the Music Festival for Brain Health.
The Music Festival for Brain Health benefits One Mind, a nonprofit supporting research, education, treatment and awareness about brain disorders and mental health. Staglin Family Vineyard is set to present the 28th Music Festival for Brain Health, including a VIP Wine Dinner, on September 10, 2022. Click here for more info.
- Liquid Geography Mencía Rosé by Olé & Obrigado ─ Fifty percent of profits are distributed between Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to support cancer care, research and education, and Wheeling Forward to help those with disabilities experience life to the fullest.
- Purple Cowboy – wines benefiting Tough Enough to Wear Pink, an organization fighting breast cancer.
- Sutter Home for Hope – benefiting the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
- Wander & Ivy – a disability-owned wine company that donates one percent of sales to charitable organizations delivering healthy foods to those in need.
More Wine Organizations to Cheers
- Diversity in Wine & Spirits: This organization aims to create an inclusive, diverse and equitable hospitality industry by providing scholarships/grants and numerous resources geared towards leadership and professional development.
- Diversity in Wine Leadership Forum: This efforts strives to connect inclusive initiatives in the wine industry to foster collaborative efforts and problem-solving among advocates and leaders.
- Grapes for Humanity: This not-for-profit raises money by hosting wine tastings, wine dinners, wine auctions and other wine-related activities. Funds aid a variety of projects, including those that engage people with disabilities.
- Uncorked Access: This organization strives to make the wine industry more accessible, specifically among the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community, through workshops, speaking engagements and accessibility consulting. It also offers American Sign Language (ASL) wine education.
- Wheeling Forward: This nonprofit, which provides people who are recently disabled with the motivation and resources needed to resume active lives, was co-founded by Yannick Benjamin, a sommelier who suffered a spinal cord injury. Among other programs, Wheeling Forward hosts its signature fundraiser, Wine on Wheels, to bring diverse people together from the hospitality industry to pour wines, socialize and raise funds for the cause.
Is Wine Beneficial?
The debate over alcohol intake is a doozy. That’s because its effects on a person’s wellbeing have been described as a double-edged sword. Drinking too much alcohol may increase risk of an array of health problems, including cancer, depression, high blood pressure, liver disease, obesity, stroke, suicide and, of course, alcoholism. However, studies have also found that drinking can be beneficial.
According to research recently presented at the American Heart Association’s 2022 Epidemiology and Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health conference, drinking a glass or two of wine with meals – but not at other times – may help lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. These latest findings focused on when consumption takes place versus quantity follows previous findings citing that red wine may be good for heart health because it contains antioxidants such as resveratrol, which can reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and inflammation, and prevent other chronic conditions.
Note: Experts recommend no more than one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. If you drink, do drink responsibly and always use a designated driver.