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Say Yes to Wine for Charity

Last Saturday Rominger West Winery released two new wines to benefit the NorCal AIDS Cycle (NCAC) during a rollicking party at the winery. I’ll come right out and say that I am biased: I work at Rominger West Winery and the release of Tailwind Red and Tailwind White has been one of my main projects for the past four months. However, even if I weren’t involved, I would still say that the celebration of the wine release and the fundraiser for the NCAC was a blast.

Nowicki's bicycle sculpture

The project started last October when the NCAC, which holds a 4-day bike ride in the Central Valley every year to raise money for HIV/AIDS service providers in the area, held a fundraiser at the winery. Joaquin Feliciano, UC Davis Greek Life Coordinator and co-founder of the NCAC, asked his friend Dr. Stephen Nowicki, local pediatrician and metal sculptor, to create  a sculpture that could be auctioned off to raise money for the NCAC. Steve went above and beyond by creating a life size, steel and copper bicycle sculpture that rests on a base the shape and color of the AIDS ribbon. When the sculpture arrived at Rominger West Winery to be auctioned off during the fundraiser, Mark West, the winemaker, fell in love with it. After consulting with the staff, the winery purchased the sculpture and displayed it in the tasting room of the winery.

Mark wasn’t done though. He came up with a plan to donate to the NCAC on a consistent, long-term basis: create a wine centered around celebrating Davis’ cycling community and supporting the NCAC, and donate part of the profits to the NCAC. Mark asked me to take charge of the marketing and release of the wine, something which I was ecstatic but nervous to do because I had never done anything like it before.

The first step was to come up with a name. We spent a whole afternoon in February brainstorming names, and not until the last 10 minutes of the workday, when we were all staring numbly at pages of crossed-out names, did Stephen Nowicki say simply, “Tailwind.” And we knew we had it. A tailwind for a cyclist is the wind at your back: a positive, uplifting force that carries the cyclist forward to his goal. We loved this image both for the positive cycling connotation it carried and also for its hopeful message related to HIV/AIDS issues.

The Tailwind Red label

At the same time we were working with our label and graphic designer, Derek Lang, to come up with the label. We wanted to incorporate Stephen’s bicycle sculpture as well as a reference to the NCAC, and what Derek came up with is a seamless incorporation of both. I particularly love how the bright colors pop; the label really stands out next to other labels on the shelf.

My task, along with our outside marketing consultant Toni Alejandria, was to raise awareness of Tailwind and its purpose in Davis and the surrounding area. Operating on a tight budget, we canvassed the area, visiting every bicycle shop in Davis, Winters, Woodland, Dixon, and several stores in Sacramento. We posted fliers, handed out complimentary tasting cards, and talked to the businesses about participating in the release party. We also contacted local bicycle groups such as the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, HIV/AIDS organizations like Under One Roof, Yolo County organizations such as the Yolo County Visitors Bureau, and local Davis groups like the Davis Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, the Davis Enterprise interviewed Mark West, Stephen Nowicki and Joaquin Feliciano about their roles in the project, and Susan Leonardi wrote a wine column about the new wines, which you can read here.

We also took full advantage of the Internetz and its powerful reach by doing much of our advertising online, using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and event websites such as www.localwineevents.com and www.mayisbikemonth.com. I created three videos using the Davis Enterprise interviews and posted them on YouTube, and our sales and marketing representative, Madison Smith, and I created several web pages dedicated to Tailwind and its release.

NCAC starts a ride the day of the party

After all of this, the big day finally arrived. The release party involved complimentary tastings of Tailwind Red and Tailwind White (of course!), BBQ foods from Flanagan’s Dogs, the music of the Urban Sherpas (contemporary jazz and groovy old favorites), booths from a dozen different organizations, activities for kids, raffles and a silent auction. Ten percent of the proceeds from all wine sold that day went to the NCAC, and 50% of the profits from all Tailwind ever sold will be donated to the NCAC! What a deal.

Although I was very busy during the release party, I did have time to try a Chicago-dog from Tim Flanagan’s hot dog cart (uh-mazing) and to sip some Tailwind. The wines, both field blends created by Mark West himself, are light and easy drinking, and I could see myself drinking them during any kind of dinner. At under $10 per bottle, I could drink them every night!

The staff serving Tailwind

Now that the whole shebang is over, I feel a little deflated, as the stress of marketing the wine and planning the event was what kept me on my toes at work for the last few months. Luckily, it’s not over. We are putting Tailwind into bottle next month (due to backup on the government’s side during label approval, we haven’t been able to actually bottle the wine yet, just sell it by the glass and in stainless steel wine carafes), so there is still a lot of marketing and planning to do, thank goodness.

Me, buffing wine glasses during the release party

I have to say, I never fancied myself a marketer or an event planner, but I am glad that I said yes to both, because I’ve had a lot of fun. There were definitely some challenges, such as last-minute cancellations from vendors, but I learned more from this experience than any classroom project or heavily monitored work assignment could have taught me. The next time you’re offered a project outside of your comfort zone, try it out because you just might surprise yourself!

To try Tailwind for yourself and support the NorCal AIDS Cycle, stop by Rominger West Winery Monday-Saturday, 10 am-6 pm. Happy hour is Thursdays from 5-8 pm with live music, special pricing on wine-by-the-glass, and Caffe Italia’s wood fired pizza oven, which not only produces mouth-wateringly fresh pizzas (my favorite is the potato and pesto) but donates all of its proceeds to the Davis Farm to School Connection, which promotes the availability farm fresh produce in schools and provides educational opportunities to students to learn about healthy eating and sustainability.

To learn  more about Tailwind, the process of releasing a wine, and the wonderful people involved in the project, visit http://www.romingerwest.com/News—Events/Tailwind.

2 Responses to Say Yes to Wine for Charity

  1. Bob Schultz July 10, 2011 at 7:56 am #

    I enjoyed meeting you at the latest Rominger West event with Misner & Smith and always enjoy your stories. Through blog entries like this I continue to learn about the great things people like Mark West and Dr. Steve Nowicki do for our community.

  2. Elizabeth Caravati July 10, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    I enjoyed meeting you too, and I love reading your blog as well!