Part 6 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” Lookout Ridge Winery & Wines for Wheelchairs

Wine Country Generosity

One of the things that inspires me about the Wine Industry and Wine Country residents is their amazing generosity, spirit of giving. Unbeknown to most consumers this isn’t a wealthy industry, or most wealth in it came from the outside. Winemakers and Growers work hard for a fairly modest lifestyle, often focusing more on quality of life, then possessions. (Except maybe that wine cellar!)

That focus on quality of life spills over to others; I watch small Vintner friends who are saving pennies to be able to put labels on a new release, they may do by hand, give away precious inventory and even cash, for good causes for the homeless, hungry, and education.

Stumbling Onto An Amazing Story

A few months ago, sitting on a plane I made the acquaintance of philanthropist Gordon Holmes. During the plane ride, I unraveled bit by bit Gordon’s fascinating story. He had done extremely well on Wall Street, and moved to Sonoma County. He owned a small winery in Kenwood (I hadn’t heard of), called Lookout Ridge. His wife has multiple sclerosis and is in a wheelchair. The Winery enlists an amazing array of California leading winemakers. These are high end wines that cost $100 a bottle. Then it all came together – f0r every bottle sold, a Wheelchair was donated to a person in need. Wow!

I enjoyed our chat thoroughly (and I normally keep to myself in my frequent air travels.) We exchanged cards (I shared my ‘real’ job as well as my passion for wine, writing, and garagiste pursuits.) and Gordon invited me to come visit some time. The next week I heard from his assistant Laura Wegner, who turns out was friends with Simple Hedonism’s guest writer Katherine Parker. (Always a small world.) We arranged a tasting the day before Thanksgiving. Wanting to broaden exposure I extended an offer to a few others, and Fred Swan of Norcal Wine Blog made the journey up.

An Inspiring View, and Cause

Lookout Ridge is aptly named. It sits atop a high elevation with stunning views, hidden away. Our tasting was timed so that we could enjoy the Sunset.

The first wine poured was Van der Kamp Vineyard 2006  Pinot Noir, made by esteemed winemaker Greg LaFollette of La Follette Winery. (Previously of Tandem, and Flowers.) A gorgeous Pinot full of cherry & spice. Drinking well now, but like most high end Pinot’s will only improve with cellar time, if you can keep your paws off of it.

As Gordon shared more detail about the Wines for Wheelchairs program, we tasted the 2005 Lookout Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon made by Marco DiGiulio, Marco is the Winemaker for MarcoWine, Lokoya, Vintage Wine Estates, amongst others.

I am not a big ‘score’ follower, but consumers are and it’s worthy to note that Wine Spectator said:

LOOKOUT RIDGE Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley Marco Digiulio 2005 Score: 92 | $100
Offers a mix of ripe dried currant and black cherry with a touch of earth and leather. Full-bodied, intense and concentrated, with touches of spice and underbrush. Complex and distinctive. Drink now through 2015. 250 cases made.

This is an elegant, approachable Cabernet. I don’t buy a lot of Bordeaux varietals these days, but this was a keeper.

Winemakers of Note

We didn’t taste through the entire portfolio (for obvious reasons), which includes a Syrah as well,  but its worth pointing out some of the other Winemakers in  the Portfolio. (Clink the link for the complete list, and full bios.) These winemakers should be recognized an applauded for donating their valuable time to the Wines for Wheelchairs cause.

  • Richard Arrowood: Richard Arrowood started his winemaking career in 1965 at Korbel Champagne Cellars.  In 1974 was chosen by the founders of Chateau St. Jean Winery to become their first employee as winemaster. In April 1990, Richard moved on to devote himself full-time to Arrowood Vineyards and Winery.
  • Cathy Corison: Cathy has 30 years of winemaking for others, including Chappellet Vineyard, Staglin Family Vineyard, York Creek Vineyards and Long Meadow Ranch. In 1987 she made the first vintage of Corison Cabernet. Cathy handcrafts her Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons from some of the finest vineyards in the Napa Valley.
  • Andy Erickson Andy has a diverse history of wine study and winemaking, including Staglin Family Vineyard, Dancing Hares Vineyard and Ovid Vineyards.  Andy also makes wine for Hartwell Vineyards in Stags Leap, and was hired as winemaker for Arietta and Screaming Eagle in 2006.

Wines For Wheelchairs

It’s simple, for every bottle you buy or gift, Gordon delivers a wheelchair, to someone in need, period. Is this financial equation upside down? Indeed it is, this is where the philanthropic side comes in.

As Gordon shared stories on some of the amazing deliveries, its not just the cost of the wheelchair (which exceeds bottle profits) – some of the places they delivered too have amazing stories of access by small boat, or hiring protection to make sure a wheelchair gets where its needed (and Gordon) instead of to the black market.

What Better Gift at Christmas, to a Loved One (or Yourself) and to Someone in Need

While the wines may seem pricey..relative to what? Napa cabs by winemakers of these calibers usually exceed $100. You or your loved one gets a quality bottle of wine.  Additionally the recipient later receives a a folder with a customized certificate & pic of the wheelchair recipient, typically one month after purchasing. Your gift, gives again. And somewhere in the world, a person without mobility, is given the ability to navigate around their world again, instead of being, literally, carried or bed ridden.

I had take a vow to decrease my wine purchase as I am about to embark into a land purchase that will require every spare dollar I have the next few years, but decided to make this my hurrah, and left with 6 bottles, half for gifts.

Consider, at this time of year, spoiling yourself or a family member, to a memorable bottle of wine. And enjoying that memory again a month later when a picture of a person you gave a new life to appears in your mailbox. How many lunches is $100?

Orders can ship as late as Wednesday of next week for Christmas. Or make it a New Years present.

cheers and thanks


The 12 Days of Wine Christmas

Part 1 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Wine Road Winter Wineland, Redwood Foodbank Raffle.

Part 2: “12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Gadget Review of the VinniBag

Part 3 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” – The Wine Check (no, its not money!)

Part 4 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Wine Clubs – A Review of Different Types and Benefits

Part 5 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” The Wine Soirée aerator & Limited Edition L/S

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