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Santa Barbara Wineries Feed FoodBank

'Food from the Vine' challenges vintners to support county's fresh food program

by Jane Firstenfeld
santa barbara foodbank
Emily Einolander of 3,500-case Ampelos Cellars designed the poster for the Food from the Vine challenge.
Santa Barbara County, Calif.—Compassionate winemakers in Santa Barbara County devised an ad hoc program to support the local FoodBank

Despite the Southern California county’s reputation as a haven of wealth and privilege, the organization states: “In our county, one in four people receive food support from the FoodBank; 44% of those served are children.”

“Food from the Vine” was the brainchild of Leslie Mead Renaud, director of winemaking for Lincourt Vineyards and Foley Estates Vineyard & Winery. Renaud enlisted her longtime friend Clarissa Nagy, winemaker at Nagy Wines and consulting winemaker at Riverbench Vineyard & Winery, and the two came up with a plan they hope will raise $100,000 for the FoodBank by Jan. 6, the traditional “Day of the Magi.”

“We’re still working on gathering wineries,” Nagy told Wines & Vines. With a late start and no official support, “We’re on a learning curve for next year,” she said. The organizers hope that more wineries will take up the challenge and call on their colleagues to do the same.

The holiday season is an especially busy time of year for SoCal wineries, Nagy noted. Adding another task for stressed tasting room staff at the last minute was not perhaps the best timing, she acknowledged. She hopes that heavy tasting traffic will fuel word-of-mouth support for the program.

“My goal was to hook up with the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association,” she said, but the proposal came in too late; SBCVA executive director Morgen McLaughlin was supportive, having worked successfully with a local food bank at her previous position in New York’s Finger Lakes AVA.

Emily Einolander of 3,500-case Ampelos Cellars in Lompoc, Calif., donated her time and design work, swiftly providing an engaging poster through her graphics company, Textual Chocolate. Wineries are encouraged to be creative, too: Contributions could be raised from sales of special bottles, donation of tasting room fees, a percentage of sales or other means.

Still time to leverage donations
With its other community partners, Nagy said, “The FoodBank can leverage every $1 donated into $17 worth of healthy, fresh produce” for its clients. If each of Santa Barbara County’s 206 wineries raised the targeted $1,000 this season, it would more than double Food from the Vine’s $100,000 goal.

The 500-case Nagy Winery in Santa Maria, Calif., offers tasting by appointment only, and Nagy said she would waive tasting room fees in return for checks to the FoodBank. Riverbank already had a program in place with the local Elks Club, which distributes baskets of food items directly to needy families.

In addition to Nagy, 12,000-case Lincourt in Solvang, Calif., and 20,000-case Foley Estate in Lompoc, 60,000-case Fess Parker (Los Olivos, Calif.) and 20,000-case Cambria (a Jackson Family winery in Santa Maria) have joined the effort.

Fess Parker, according to sales/marketing coordinator Amy Fletcher, is conducting a Facebook auction for a 3-liter bottle of 2011 Ashley’s Pinot Noir. Not available by retail, the starting bid is $300; the auction will run until Jan. 6.

Other wineries are encouraged to sign on at


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