By guest blogger, Greg Gauthier, President and Winemaker of Gauthier Select Vineyards
It was just about a year ago that I was introduced to Humanitas Wines. My boss Judd Wallenbrock, the President of our boutique wine company here in the Napa Valley was giving us a lesson in defining our ‘why’. We wanted to be able to express to our team and our members why we make the wines that we make, why we are so passionate about our work; essentially what was our raison d’être? To illustrate his point, Judd described his motivation for founding Humanitas.
Nineteen years ago Judd was approaching his fortieth birthday (sorry Judd, this is integral to the story!). He had two young children and a third on the way. He was wondering what his legacy might be, what he was doing to make the world a bit better for his family, for posterity, for his community. So Judd tried volunteer work. He went to his church’s soup kitchen and distributed food to the poor, but soon found that it wasn’t for him. Judd says “I was lousy at volunteer work! Whereas many people leave that kind of experience uplifted, I felt worse. I felt sad, like the impact I was making was not great enough.” So what was the solution? Give up? No way.
At the time, Judd’s career in the wine business was already flourishing. He had just wrapped up ten years with Mondavi where he built an impressive eighteen brands as their VP of Marketing. One thing he knew was wine and marketing wine. A simple image, an Italian doorway depicting a saint distributing food to the poor with the inscription ‘Charitas’ inspired the name ‘Humanitas’ the Latin word for philanthropy and human kindness. Judd realized that his vocational skills could be just the answer to quelling his existential angst.
Much to his wife’s chagrin, Judd took out a second mortgage on their home and set out to make ‘wines so good they will change the world’. The idea: make world class single vineyard wines, sell the wine, and give the profits back to charities that address primary needs, or hunger, health and housing. All this would be accomplished from Judd’s backyard ‘Shed-teau’ and with a single employee – himself.
So on that day about a year ago, I learned a great lesson in branding, but more importantly I learned that I’m lucky to work for a pretty stand-up guy who genuinely cares about his fellow man. Lucky for me, the owners of our little wine company were similarly compelled by the Humanitas story. About six months ago Humanitas was brought into the fold and now we all get to be a part of its inspiring journey. Since its inception Judd has donated $250,000 to charity through Humanitas, the great majority done without our help - imagine what we can do as a team! We want to thank the folks at Cellar Angels for doing all they do to make the world a better place through the enjoyment of wine. And we thank all of you, for as we like to say – if you’re going to drink, ‘Drink Charitably!’