My Latest in The Drinks Business:
by L.M. Archer
Walla Walla’s non-profit winery VITAL Wines recently launched a new Guest Winemaker Series aimed to fund vital healthcare schemes for migrant vineyard workers.
Founded in 2016 by winemaker Ashley Trout, VITAL Wines donates all net profits to area programmes that benefit grape tenders and their families.
The impetus for VITAL stems from Trout’s own experience growing up in a bilingual, bicultural household.
As a child who spoke more Spanish than English, she often translated for non-English speaking household adults. Medical visits proved the worst.
“It was dehumanising for people who don’t deserve to be dehumanised,” Trout recalled. “The second I started in the wine industry, it doesn’t take a genius to look around and recognise that a lot of these people are in our vineyards. I wanted to solve for that.”
Trout also personally understands US healthcare limitations. At age twenty, Trout suffered a severe climbing accident in Japan while teaching English there. Ultimately, the cost for 40 days of hospitalisation and five surgeries totaled US$5,000. “I didn’t have any health insurance, and just couldn’t fathom what would have happened to me if that accident had happened while I was in the United States,” she said.
Creating a New Model
Initially, Trout drew inspiration for VITAL from Oregon’s ¡Salud! vineyard worker healthcare programme. The non-profit raises funds through its annual ¡Salud! The Oregon Pinot Noir Auction.
Unfortunately, rural Walla Walla does not enjoy Willamette Valley’s proximity to urban Portland, a major city capable of raising over a million dollars in one weekend.
I’m delighted to share my latest article on VITAL Wines’ Guest Winemaker series with you.