Wineries are coming out loud and proud in their support of gay marriage. They’re putting it right on the label.
“Little by little, we’re breaking down the barrier,” says Gary Saperstein of Out in the Vineyard, an events and tour company based in California’s Sonoma wine country that caters to gay travelers.
One barrier-breaker is Same Sex Meritage, a red blend that sends its message on the bottle and at the cash register – $1 for every bottle sold is donated to the advocacy group Freedom to Marry.
“It’s the right thing to do,” says Matt Gold, who is based in Chicago and teamed with Josh Stein of Stein Family Wines in California to make the wine.
Meritage refers to a Bordeaux-style blend. And, of course, it sounds a lot like marriage.
Same Sex Meritage isn’t the only wine reaching out to the LGBT community.
Egalite, a bubbly from the Burgundy region of France, takes its name from the French word for equality. Each quarter, a portion of profits is donated to an LGBT nonprofit group chosen by fans of the wine on Facebook; $15,000 has been donated since the wine’s January launch.
From Stand Tall Wines, there’s Genetic Pinot Noir, which refers to sexual orientation having genetic origins. Stand Tall Wines was founded by Larisa Stephenson and partner Dana Sabin. The wine is being made in the Napa Valley using grapes shipped from Oregon’s Willamette Valley and 1 percent of Genetic sales is being donated to the Napa LBGTQ Project.
And though it doesn’t have a message-specific label, Barefoot Wine & Bubbly has been supporting marriage rights for gays for 25 years, donating to local LGBT centers and investing in Pride Week events.
“We definitely love to celebrate the LGBT community and all of its progress,” says Jerime Black, Barefoot’s national LGBT sales and marketing manager. “Barefoot really is all about fun. It’s taking the stuffiness out of wine.”
For Sonoma and Napa Valley producers, the LGBT market is a particularly good fit since the wine regions are close to San Francisco and its substantial gay population.
Same Sex Meritage’s Gold is aware that message-specific wines are in danger of being dismissed as a gimmick, which is why he and Stein work to make sure the wine in the bottle lives up to the label.
“We have to have a good quality wine,” he says. “Otherwise people are only going to buy it once.”