As most of you know I am on the board for the Washington Wines Festival, which raises awareness of Washington’s wonderful wines and funds for worthy charities such as Camp Korey. The wine business has a long and laudable history of charity, dating at least as far back as the famous Hospices de Beaune in Burgundy. Dating to 1443, the hospice was a hospital for the poor and needy, supported by funds raised from the local wine producers. To this day an important wine auction is held every November at the Hospice, maintaining a centuries-long tradition.
Health care continues to be a popular beneficiary of charity wine auctions, and there are some interesting parallels to the circumstances that prevail today with the conditions at the time of the founding of the Hospices de Beaune. The Hundred Years War had just ended, but the long conflict had been financially ruinous. Marauders roamed the countryside, pillaging and plundering, and much of the population was destitute. The Hospice became a refuge for the sick, the disabled, orphans, expectant mothers, and the destitute, all supported by the wine industry. Every year here in the Seattle area, the Auction of Washington Wines raises money for the Uncompensated Care fund at Children’s Hospital, and the Washington Wines Festival supports Camp Korey, one of Paul Newman’s “Hole in the Wall” camps for seriously ill children. Down the road in Oregon a similar event benefits health care for farm workers, a group traditionally excluded from access to health care services. And there is of course the Napa Valley Wine Auction, which includes health care for the needy among its worthy causes. These are only a few of a large number of charitable activities around the country, especially important in a time of economic upheaval. Worldwide, the impact is in the high millions of dollars at the very least. And given that wine is not only a health food but contributes to the enjoyment of life, it is the ultimate win-win.