How Does a Small, Family Owned Sonoma County Winery Become the Official Wine Partner of a World Class Sporting Event?
Passion and authenticity is the answer. This weekend the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series comes to Chicago for the second qualifying race on US waters. The first took place on the Hudson in New York City last month and lined up 35,000 fans along the pier and on hospitality boats.
One of those fans was Kim Stare Wallace, but she was not just there as an excited sailing fan, she was there as CEO of Dry Creek Vineyard, the official wine of the events in New York and Chicago.
“To be selected by the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Races as their official wine partner is a huge honor for us,” says Wallace, “It’s a culmination of our years and years of involvement in various regattas and sponsorships of sailors. It’s really quite an honor, we’re very excited.”
The America’s Cup is a series of dynamic yachting regattas representing the pinnacle of world-class yacht racing with the best sailors in the world competing for the oldest trophy in international sport, and during the New York and Chicago events Dry Creek Vineyard wines will be exclusively poured in the event’s hospitality areas and spectator boats.
The race authority could have selected any brand, a mass marketed or international brand, but they chose Dry Creek Vineyard, a small, family owned Sonoma County winery. “The allure for them is the authenticity of our brand,” says Wallace, “the authenticity of our wines, the quality, obviously, of the wines, but especially the fact that we truly are passionate about sailing. It’s not just a marketing gimmick.”
Dry Creek Vineyard has long been associated with sailing. David Stare, Wallace’s father and founder of the winery, is a sailor, and she grew up sailing with him on the San Francisco Bay. In 1977 Stare sponsored the first sailing team at Sonoma State University, and in 1982 the sailing ship theme first appeared on their wine labels. Since then, Sonoma County artist Michael Surles has provided the nautical paintings for the labels, and the wine has become known as the Wine for Sailors.
The passion for sailing is clear, not just from their history, but when Wallace speaks about sailing and the excitement of the race. “Sailing at this level is a whole different kind of sailing than what I’m accustomed to and that recreational sailors are accustomed to. With sailing there are two things; first you have the element of teamwork and secondly you have the element of mother nature, which is somewhat unpredictable,” explains Wallace. “So not only does the crew have to be expert sailors, but they also have to be expert tacticians, navigators, meteorologists. You have to be an expert of so many facets, the wind direction, the changing wind, the tide, the currents, et cetera.”
“These are the rockstars of the sailing world, and I’ve had the privilege of meeting many of the top sailors, and what I’ve always asked them is how did you start sailing? Well, they all started the same way that most of us do as a kid; learning on a lake or a pond or perhaps an ocean, but in very calm waters. They all learned the same way; I find that quite fascinating.”
The first America’s Cup was originally won by the New York Yacht Club in 1851 in Great Britain around the Isle of Wight, and the American’s successfully defended the Cup for over 150 years. The regattas in New York and Chicago play a part in determining the seeding of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers in Bermuda in 2017.
In Chicago Wallace will not only be enjoying the race but overseeing a number of VIP hospitality venues throughout the fan village, pouring her wines, and providing hospitality to distributors, customers, and fans. “It should be a great deal of fun,” says Wallace, “I have never met a sailor that isn’t a fun chap. They’re fun, adventurous, confident risk-takers, and they love the outdoors, and I absolutely would love it if Team USA won.”
By Kim Johannsen