My husband Ric and I are owners and operators of Campos Family Vineyards. From the beginning, one of our goals has been to provide a resource for fundraising events. We never figured out how many fundraisers we do each year, but the average is more than two a month.
We are also sponsoring a program called Giving Back that raises funds for designated charitable organizations through the sale of dedicated wine labels. A percentage from the sale of each Giving Back wine helps finance a specific medical research or helps defray the medical costs of a particular individual.
We are currently working on the fifth and most recent Giving Back vintage, called Quinny’s Blend. The idea came to Ric last November while he was watching a football game. During a break, they ran a short feature on ALS, the infamous “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” The special pointed out the dreadful fact that an increasing number of football players are being diagnosed with ALS because of head traumas suffered while playing the game. For example, on June 4, 2018, Dwight Clark, the ex-49er Superstar, passed from ALS, probably as a result of three concussions he had suffered during his playing career.
The feature included an interview with family members of a player who had recently been diagnosed with the disease. Ric wept as he watched the interview because it stirred up memories of one of his best friends, named Quinny, who a decade earlier had passed from the disease. Ric said that he and Quinny had begun playing together when they were only four years old. When they were eight, both of them were pitchers on the Phillies Little League team in Fremont. “I was the hard right hander,” Ric said with a smile. “Quinny was the crafty left-hander.”
Ric said he doesn’t remember how many games they won, which probably means they never won very many games, but he fondly recalls the joyful times he and Quinny spent in those ballparks. The two remained good friends through high school. Following graduation, they entered the trades together, both of them were journeymen carpenters, Ric was in Quinny’s wedding.
“A percentage from the sale of each Giving Back wine helps finance a specific medical research or helps defray the medical costs of a particular individual.”
Ric remembers the sad day when he stopped to see his friend and discovered that he had been diagnosed with ALS. “It was horrible to watch the progression of the disease,” Ric said. Within a year his friend Quinny was gone.
At the end of the brief television special, Ric learned that the ALS Foundation was the least funded of the major diseases. Ric dried his tears and decided to honor his friend’s memory by creating a Giving Back wine and donating profits from the sale to the ALS Foundation.
Ric and I were familiar with the steps involved in the procedure for moving Ric’s decision into reality. The vintage would be part of an Artist Series that we have been creating during the past three years. Even more to the point, the Artist Series included four previous Giving Back vintages, each designed to raise funds for a particular area of medical research or need. For Quinny’s Blend, we commissioned an amazing artist named Keta Greig to create artwork for a label featuring three bright yellow sunflowers, which is the ALS Foundation’s official symbol of hope, pointing to the fact that even though nothing has been FDA approved, there is hopeful progress being made for a cure.
“Gigi’s Blend became the flagship and prototype for our subsequent Giving Back projects. The next year we created a second label, called Forget Me Not, which we dedicated to research into dementia.”
We’re planning to unveil the wine on September 28 with a big “Country Fest to Beat ALS” launch party. Coffey Anderson plus Jeff Rickets and the Dirt Road Band will provide live entertainment plus foot-stomping accompaniment for line dancing. Guests will share in a VIP Dinner, a live auction, and plenty of Meet ’n Greet opportunities. Members of the 49rs will be there, possibly including our own Jeremy Newberry. The day will mark the fifth anniversary of the Ice Bucket Challenge that raised millions of dollars for ALS research. (Ric will hopefully listen to my pleas not to attempt to restart it that night.)
OUR GIVING BACK STORY
Our Giving Back fundraising wines fit perfectly into the culture we’re creating because one of our original motivations in acquiring Campos Family Vineyards was that it would provide a resource for people in the community and for anyone who needed a lovely site for purposes of fundraising and celebration.
The initial Giving Back project began three years ago as an idea born by our granddaughter, Gigi, who was ten years old at the time. Gigi has Asperger syndrome and a high functioning case of autism spectrum disorder. Gigi’s young life turned a wonderful corner when we took her to meet Temple Grandin, who is a 68-year-old professor at the University of Colorado and one of the world’s leading scientists in integrating innovative digital technology into the farming industry. What attracted us to Dr. Grandin is that she is on the autism spectrum and has become a widely acknowledged Face of Autism. We took Gigi to an Autism conference in Sacramento to hear Dr. Grandin speak. After listening to the speech and then meeting with Dr. Grandin face-to-face, Gigi made an observation, which was truly profound for a child not yet in her teens, “Dr. Grandin’s brain thinks like my brain.”
When Gigi became familiar with our winemaking process, she asked us one day, “Can we make a wine, call it Gigi’s Blend, and use it as a give-back, donating part of the profits to the Temple Grandin Foundation?” Of course, we quickly picked up on the idea.
Like many people on the spectrum Gigi is a talented artist. “If you make the wine I’ll design the label,” she told us.
Gigi was a student at Brentwood Elementary school. As a school art project, she created an abstract design for the label using a mixture of shapes delimited by flowing gold bands. Since the sense of touch is important to people on the spectrum, we embossed the gold lines so that people can feel the design as well as see it. Gigi’s Blend is a red wine created from a blend of “estate wines,” using four grapes from our own vineyards. Our public unveiling of Gigi’s Blend in 2017 was part of a Wine Club release. We had several cases in the tasting room and set Gigi up at her own station so she could sign bottles. It was a memorable day for the beautiful little girl.
From our faith-based perspective, we have a powerful sense that, beginning with the first Temple Grandin contact, the Gigi’s Blend narrative has been a God-thing. For one thing, the wine turned out to be a great success and has since become one of our top-selling labels. Of course, people are attracted to the background of the wine. Almost everyone knows someone on the autism spectrum and will cheerfully contribute to medical research while making a purchase that might bring cheer to their heart or provide a gracious complement to some meal or gathering of friends. But one strong indication of His presence and power is that the wine turned out to be of premier quality. The label took home a gold medal at the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Wine connoisseurs, as well as people in general who like a fine wine, appreciate the taste.
Gigi’s Blend became the flagship and prototype for our subsequent Giving Back projects. The next year we created a second label, called Forget Me Not, which we dedicated to research into dementia. A portion of the profits were dedicated to educating people about dementia and especially in how to effectively care for people with the disease. Like all the Giving Back wines, Forget Me Not is part of our Artist Series so we commissioned a Brentwood artist and art teacher named Keta Greig to design the artwork for the label. Keta is a “prophetic artist” at the church that meets every Sunday in our community room. Each Sunday she creates a piece to serve as a graphic representation of whatever heavenly connection or truth the speaker that morning is making with his/her words.
We spoke to Keta about the project. We told her about our friend who described the downward progression of her mom’s dementia as being like a sunset, moving through an increasing twilight towards darkness. Keta understood completely and combined her artistic ability with her spiritual insight to create a lovely sunset that exactly captured the spirit we were looking for in the project.
Forget Me Not was wonderfully received at a public release last July. The release was part of a conference we held on our site with Teepa Snow, known as “Today’s Voice for Dementia.” She is a leading trainer and consultant in the field, plus the owner and CEO of a company called Positive Approach that provides training and consultation services across the U.S. and Canada.
Teepa turned out to be an amazing human being and was grateful for the give-back to dementia education that we were providing. The conference was sold out, with people on a waiting list who were unable to attend. The caregivers and families fortunate enough to attend were treated to an amazing experience. They were laughing and crying. Each attendee came away inspired to reach out to people suffering from dementia and was better equipped to provide effective care for them. Many, of course, had purchased bottles or cases of Forget Me Not.
We’re planning another Give Back next month. This time it will be part of a fundraising effort we’ve been conducting for the past three years to help cover the medical expenses for a young woman named Tiffany Rich, who is the recipient of a double lung transplant. Our first fundraising concert was with Kelly Pickler and last year was the Marshall Tucker band.
We donate to Tiffany through the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA), which is a 501(c)(3) fundraising organization with the mission of helping children and young adults cope with organ transplants.
This year we are offering a matched pair of wines, one a Rosé the other a Chardonnay, and each of them called “65 Roses.” The name came from a poster child who would mispronounce “cystic fibrosis” as “65 Roses.” Keta Greig created a common graphic for both labels displaying a pleasing arrangement of 65 colorful roses. The wines will be released at a “Just Breathe” concert featuring the performing artist Cassadee Pope, who became famous as the third season winner of NBC’s The Voice. We’re all looking forward to that!
Many people savor each of our Giving Back vintages, not merely for the pleasing taste, but because they have found a bottle that they can connect to with their heart as well as their palate. Last year I spoke at a meeting of the Brentwood Rotary Club. At the conclusion, the club auctioned off three bottles of Gigi’s Blend that I had brought with me. Members usually regard those end-of-meeting auctions as a bargain. For example, a member might offer some product worth $60 that a member could get for a $40 bid. The process didn’t work out that way with my three bottles of Gigi’s Blend. Each would have been a bargain for $25 but the bid went over $100 a bottle. Each bidder was glad to be able to secure a nice bottle of wine, of course. But more than that, like many of our Giving Back clients, they were grateful to do some small thing to make the world a better place. Each connected to the bottle with his/her heart.
Unlike normal fundraising events, a wonderful quality about our Giving Back projects is that the label becomes an ongoing source of revenue for the associated foundation. Every bottle of wine sold becomes a small tributary feeding into what can potentially grow into an important revenue stream.
Last month, for example, contributions from our first Giving Back label, Gigi’s Blend, to the Temple Grandin Foundation exceeded the $10,000 mark.
Photos by Ron Essex