It’s not often you can grab a bottle of wine off the shelves and know that the proceeds from that purchase will impact a person’s life. But what if uncorking that bottle selected for a Saturday night dinner with friends could actually do some good? Thanks to Ashley Trout, founder and winemaker of Vital Wines, it can. In 2015, Trout launched the nonprofit winery, which donates proceeds to a clinic devoted to helping people without health insurance — an issue that affects a large portion of the wine industry. We recently sat down with Trout to learn about the mission behind Vital Wines and what they’re working on next.
1) What’s behind the name Vital Wines?
Your health is vital, in the most literal sense of the word. We thought straight to the point would be best. There is a nice play on words if you look at what we did with the fonts on our label. The Latin root for vital, vitality, vitis — the Latin name for grape — are the exact same. Vines are hard to kill and are extremely robust. The Latins, savvy as ever, noticed this and named grapes accordingly. On our label, we really delineate the Vit part, alluding more to viticulture. Our graphic designer Joe Chauncey came up with that and we are honored to be working with him.
2) Tell us about the SOS Health Services. Why do Vital Wines profits go to the clinic?
The SOS clinic was an obvious choice. They see any patient for free and are situated in the heart of wine country. They needed people to know what they were doing, and a little funding never hurts either. We know how to make alcohol, but not heal people, nor were we on a speedy path to becoming the types of people who know how to heal others — still just making wine — so the fit couldn’t have been more perfect.
3) Who are some of your key partners and how does this relationship work?
We’ve had some steady donations from early on, many of whom want to stay anonymous, but not all. Trysk Printing was a huge help with labels, Bugle Bottling was fantastic from the get-go. Amcor and ETS Labs are due a huge thank you. This mainly works because we are surrounded by kind people running great companies who share our understanding of why this is an important problem to solve — or at least bring to light in the meantime. We’ve had vineyards beating down the door from the beginning, too many to count. It has been a heartwarming project to say the least.
4) What’s next for Vital Wines?
The clinic will help anyone that walks through their door and we at Vital are more than happy to spread the love. But if our mission is really to help vineyard and cellar workers, doing that in the most concise and accurate way possible makes sense. We are working closely with a research team at Whitman College who has a grant to study just that: who are “we,” what are “our” biggest ailments and what are the largest, hardest and most common barriers to receiving proper care for those specific types of ailments. Once we have some of those clues, we can start working toward diverting funds to more specified projects. In the meantime, I can’t think of a more worthy place than the SOS, so it’s pretty much all a win-win.