A ribbon on a soup can caught the attention of Jake Kloberdanz as he stocked shelves.
The CEO and founder of ONEHOPE Wine noticed the breast cancer ribbon during the month of October, but lamented that when November came, it was gone. He had an idea to form a business that would give to charities year round.
But, as ONEHOPE winemaker Mari Wells Coyle joked, “He did what most people did when they have an amazing idea: nothing.”
That was until a friend of his was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Kloberdanz set out the next day with a business plan, and gathered a group of talented cofounders. He sold 150 cases of wine out of the back of his Ford F-150, and donated proceeds to AIDS research, autism and breast cancer.
Today, without major retail distribution, ONEHOPE has donated more than $8 million to over 20,000 nonprofit partners. Wine club members and Cause Entrepreneurs, supporters who host either an in-person or virtual tasting event where 10% of all sales go to the nonprofit of their choice, have been part of the winery’s success.
When a property came open on Highway 29 in Rutherford, California, ONEHOPE was only 7 years old. It couldn’t yet mortgage the site. But, Kloberdanz had another plan. A pair of quarterbacks – retired Broncos Hall of Famer John Elway and Packers starter Aaron Rodgers – are part of the business collective.
California has offered winemakers a wide palate from which to draw inspiration for their wines, and with ONEHOPE, Wells Coyle has taken full advantage of the opportunity to showcase the state’s diverse growing regions.
“What inspires me is the place [it was grown],” Wells Coyle said. “You can make a certain style of wine and use all kinds of techniques that make it taste a certain way year after year. But I find the place’s expression to be special.”
Which she’s done with the ONEHOPE Paso Robles Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 ($35) from Paso Robles.
“This is such an exciting blend,” Wells Coyle said. “[The] 2020 is my favorite so far. The vintage is intense and shows off the Paso Robles region’s savory character; there’s a little herbal note in the wine. Paso is very warm during the day, but it cools at night. So there’s a chance for maximum ripening, but some herbal notes that are geared for cabernet. It’s a wine that’s more light on its feet and approachable. I think as it ages, it’ll get more savory.”
With the ONEHOPE Amador County Reserve Zinfandel 2020 ($45), the vineyard source made it a “thrill” for Wells Coyle to make. It is grown in the Shake Ridge vineyard in California’s historic gold country, where the soils are loamy earth and decomposed granite. Because it is mixed with a couple different clones amid dry conditions far from coastal influence that offer an even fruit set and ripening, she has a medium weight zin that’s focused on fruit and spice.
There’s 10% petite sirah added for color and concentration in the midpalate, and the wine only sees 10 months in oak rather than two years. Wells Coyle said she “loved the high acidity of the wine that is really bright.”
“We get consistent ripeness and don’t have to pick overripe in the Sierra Foothills,” Wells Coyle said. “The Foothills get so warm, and the degree days are pretty long. It’s a perfect spot for an American heritage grape. The thrill is to find a location to bring in zinfandel that isn’t a monster to make.”
Even as vineyard conditions in the Monterey AVA allow for extended hangtime prior to harvest, Wells Coyle liked to find balance. The ONEHOPE Monterey County Reserve Pinot Noir 2020 ($45) had ripe black fruit flavors accented by cigar spice, cola notes, a round mouthfeel and hints of blood orange.
“You can drive toward cherry cola and vanilla in Monterey,” Wells Coyle said. “There’s a place for that; I allow that to be in the blend, giving some of that cola and sarsaparilla characteristic off. But I also play with the oak to get the right baking spice and vanilla layers, which is important for texture.”
She found texture with the ONEHOPE Rutherford Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($45), which had a round mouthfeel and tropical fruit flavors. It was a welcome diversion from the popular, fresh-cut-grass style of sauvignon blanc, which also can be awesome.
“It’s an incredible spot for sauvignon blanc,” Wells Coyle said. “There’s not much of it anymore. It’s rare and hard to find it smack dab in the middle of Napa. There are lots of cool nights and fog covering the vineyard for much of the morning and afternoon. But, it still gets riper flavors and a unique, refreshing, parsley-and-herb note to go with the tropical fruit.”
Even if she spends most of her time in a vineyard or cellar, she’s still inspired by the chance to make a difference in the world.
“To see engaged people work together to talk about solving some of the world’s most challenging problems is rewarding,” Wells Coyle said. “I’m fortunate to have a seat at that table occasionally.”
• James Nokes has been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.