The former co-owner of Screaming Eagle Winery in the Napa Valley will give away more than $450,000 to charities this year through his new venture's sales of boxed and sub-$20 bottled wines.
Charles A. Banks launched Cultivate Wines in Santa Barbara, California, last year with his wife, Ali. The couple plan to pass on 10 percent of the company's gross revenue to worthy causes.
Since winning its first customer – Ruby Tuesdays, an 850-outlet American restaurant chain – in November 2011, Cultivate has donated $359,000 to charity. Banks estimates that figure will rise to $450,000 by the end of the year.
The brand is also set to sell through Macaroni Grill, an Italian restaurant chain that has more than 200 outlets. Banks says the chain is creating a separate section on its list for the Cultivate range, entitled "Wines that give."
The brand includes two box wines from Chile – an unoaked chardonnay and a cabernet/carménère blend. It also sells bottled wines, including a malbec from Argentina, a cabernet/merlot blend from California and an Italian pinot grigio. Banks also owns the Mulderbosch winery in Stellenbosch, and will be producing an affordable South African sauvignon blanc for the Cultivate range.
He is quite open about the rationale behind customers buying the wines. “It's selfish because the wine is good, but they get to feel good about drinking it because of the 'give' component.”
The company asks charities to submit applications for “The Give” online. The public then vote for their favorites and the most popular is awarded $50,000. Five runners-up are given $10,000 each.
“We're having a vote right now,” says Banks. “We're up to about 150,000 votes a month; it's so cool. We give $100,000 away a quarter and a Christmas 'give,' so by the end of the year it'll be $450,000 or so, give or take.”
Cultivate has thus far donated to causes including HIV and Aids, homelessness and autism, and to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.