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Wente Builds a New Foundation

Livermore, Calif., winery marks 130 years with support for arts education

by Jane Firstenfeld
wente foundation arts education wfae
Proceeds from Wente's $100 Art of Giving red blend will fund its charity, the Wente Foundation for Arts Education.
Livermore, Calif.—Since 1883, the Wente family has been making wine in the Livermore Valley east of San Francisco. To mark the 130th anniversary, the family formally established the Wente Foundation for Arts Education (WFAE), which will be headed by fifth-generation winegrower Christine Wente.

Winemaker Karl Wente, Christine’s brother, created a limited-edition 2011 vintage red blend to help fund the foundation. “The Art of Giving” wine will be sold only direct-to-consumer through the Wente Vineyards’ wine club, tasting room and at numerous events planned throughout the year to support WFAE. All proceeds from the $100 bottles will be donated to the foundation.

Prior to the official announcement, Christine Wente spoke with Wines & Vines about the foundation and the family’s goals for it. Still family owned and operated, Wente produces 750,000 cases per year of wines from its vineyards in the Livermore Valley and Monterey County, with distribution in more than 70 countries around the world.

Sustainability, she said, is a keystone of the family’s philosophy. “Social equity,” or giving back to the community, is perhaps the most overlooked element of sustainability—and an important aspect of the Wentes’ business. “We live and work here,” Wente said (notably, she is the only member of the multi-generational family working in the winery who does not currently live on the Livermore estate).

Wente Winery has provided seed money for the foundation’s setup and first year expenses. WFAE plans to become a fundraising organization, tapping into the winery’s experience and resources: concerts in the vineyard with top artists, available event spaces, a strong network and, of course, access to wine.

Steven Lau, proprietor of 500-case Volta Wine in Napa, Calif., was appointed executive director of the foundation, which he will oversee from his New York City homebase. “He has lots of connections and experience in music promotion,” Wente noted.

During its first three years WFAE will direct its efforts toward music education; Wente Winery has an established track record with this specialty: Live auctions of large-format wines have raised some $250,000 for school music education in the Livermore Valley.

Once the foundation is fully established, Wente said, “We hope to make it broad enough to also support visual and performing arts.” The Wente community extends far beyond the Bay Area, and WFAE already is planning fundraising events in locales as distant as New Orleans and New York City, to benefit causes in those areas.

Beneficiaries of WFAE funds will be determined by finding local partners for each event and determining local needs, according to Wente. The inaugural event already is scheduled for April 24 at the Rice House in New Orleans, to benefit the Trombone Shorty Foundation, which helps economically disadvantaged children develop skills as young musicians. New Orleans’ music heritage and food culture make it perfect for the first event, Wente said. A fall benefit in New York is now in the works.

Closer to home, WFAE is co-presenter of the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Foundation Auction on May 11. The winery has participated throughout the auction’s 19-year history, helping to raise $3.5 million for “underserved local children.”

As a co-presenter in 2012, the auction marked WFAE’s first official event, Wente said, “But we’ve always been involved.” This year, she expects some 300 guests at the black-tie-optional wine tasting, dinner and live and silent auctions of wines, trips and similar luxe goods in the Wente Winery barrel room.

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