Wine for a Good Cause: Humanitas

This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register.

Napa is home to more than 500 wineries and more than 750 charities, according to Judd Wallenbrock, owner of Humanitas Wines.

Humanitas Wines in Napa has created a business model in which it is making wine as well as giving back to the community and supporting regional charities.

Wallenbrock has been in the wine industry for more than 35 years. Between 1992-2001, he was the head of global marketing for Mondavi. He had always dreamed about having his own winery but knew that there was no shortage of wineries in existence.

Judd Wallenbrock

“Why pollute an already polluted area?” he asked. “To start a winery, it would have to be different.”

When Wallenbrock turned 40, in 1997, he felt strongly about doing something good in life and setting a positive example for his children. But, coming from the wine industry as opposed to the tech industry, he was not flush with money.

“If you want to do good and you do not have money, what can you do?” he asked rhetorically. He volunteered with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Feed the Poor. While most people felt good with what they were doing, Wallenbrock said, it made him depressed. “I did not want to be a Band-Aid to issues. I wanted to be a solution.”

In response, Wallenbrock decided to make and market wine with the intention of giving back. Working at Mondavi for all those years, Wallenbrock had been taught that wine is a “part of the good life” and that enjoying it can make life better. He took out a home equity line, got a license and launched Humanitas in 2001.

Humanitas is a Latin word that means human nature and kindness. At Humanitas Wines, 7 percent of all revenues are donated to primary need charities that are regionally focused on hunger, housing and health.

“With wine, I could change the world, honor great vineyards and give back,” Wallenbrock explained. Currently, Humanitas has fundraising partnerships with Souls4Souls, Napa Chamber of Commerce Foundation, The Edith Sanford Breast Foundation, SightLife, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and many regional food banks and community foundations.

Humanitas is part of The Good Life Wine Collective, which also includes the wineries Jessup and Handwritten. All three wineries are consumer direct and appointment only.

An appointment at the Humanitas Tasting Annex in southern Napa is a “pay it forward” experience and features a wine tasting paired with molecular gastronomy spoon bites. An entire meal is deconstructed and then reconstructed into one bite that will mimic the dish.

For example, with the bright citrusy 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, it was paired with a fire roasted tomato soup, made up of fire roasted tomato caviar, balsamic gastrique, basil garlic confit and smoked salt.

The earthy 2012 Truchard Vineyards pinot noir from Carneros was paired with mushroom ragout, consisting of porcini shitake caviar, garlic oil, pinot black pepper gastrique and espresso salt. A spoonful of tart dark cherry caviar with cinnamon vanilla oil, pomegranate gastrique and espresso salt was paired with the 2011 Reid Vineyard cabernet sauvignon.

Sit back and enjoy music while sipping on wines and enjoying spoon bites at the Humanitas Tasting Annex. Humanitas has one of wine country’s largest vinyl record collections with 992 albums from Wallenbrock’s personal collection.

To date, Humanitas has given $250,000 to charity. As they say at Humanitas, “Drink charitably!”

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.