The Power of Wine: Great Philanthropy Flowing from Great Wines

The Power of Wine, Marin Magazine

Good wine is powerful. It connects, inspires, and amplifies. The most important moments in love, life, and business are often paired with fine wines, celebrated around a dinner table. Scientists claim that wine tasting engages more of the human brain than other human behaviors. Wine even allegedly connects us to the divine. So, it shouldn’t surprise that great philanthropy flows from great wines too.


Since its inception in 1981, Auction Napa Valley has turned four days of parties, private dinners prepared by celebrities, concerts by rock stars, and barrel, online and live auctions into over $170 million to help provide everything from English language preparation for kindergartners to adult day services to Alzheimer’s disease support. Last year, one lot alone raised $2.1 million — it included a Colgin Cellars horizontal collection of large-format bottles of 2007 wines. Last year, more than $13 million was raised.



The Naples (Florida) Wine Auction is especially critical to the community it serves since the local government provides no support for children’s social services. This annual event funds more than 50 percent of Collier County’s youth programs through the auction’s beneficiary, Naples Children and Education Foundation. Over $176 million has been raised to date.



The behemoths of wine-based philanthropy may well be the Staglin family and their eponymous Napa Valley vineyard. After their son Brandon was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 19, owners Garen and Shari Staglin resolved to be at the forefront of fundraising for research to find mental illness cures. “Our family vineyard motto is Great Wine for Great Causes, and we absolutely live that at Staglin Family Vineyard,” Garen says. Great philanthropic numbers prove this too. The Staglins’ efforts include an annual Music and Education Festival for Brain Health, to be held this year on September 15, featuring Jennifer Hudson and Mindstrong Health President Thomas Insel, and two mental health foundations — Bring Change to Mind and One Mind for Research. In addition, the Staglins have chaired, co-chaired or founded at least 16 other major initiatives, raising over $800 million for institutions ranging from UCLA to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.



The abundance of support for victims of last year’s wine country fires also attests to wine’s community-uniting power. Donations immediately arrived by the truckload. Vineyards and residents not affected gave all they could to help the victims, then dug even deeper. Signs popped up with slogans like “The love in the air is thicker than the smoke.” Tourists booked special fundraising visits soon after the fires to provide additional help. This magazine was delighted to see that the matching grant promotion it formed in collaboration with the Red Cross and other magazines, including Napa Sonoma, Diablo, SPACES and Make It Better, raised over $20,000 in under 24 hours.

Susan B. Noyes is the founder and chief visionary officer of Make It Better Media Group, as well as the founder of Make It Better Foundation’s Philanthropy Awards. A mother of six, former Sidley Austin labor lawyer, U.S. Congressional aide, passionate philanthropist and intuitive connector, she has served on the boards of the Poetry FoundationHarvard University Graduate School of Education Visiting CommitteeAmerican Red CrossLurie Children’s HospitalAnnenberg ChallengeChicago Public Education FundLyric Opera of ChicagoChicago Symphony OrchestraNew Trier High School District 203 and her beloved Kenilworth Union Church. Most of all, she enjoys serving others, creating virtuous circles that amplify social impact for all.


This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline: “The Power of Wine”.