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Humanity Wine Project of Paso Robles satisfies the palate and the soul

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Humanity Wine Project of Paso Robles aims to bring partaking in delicious California wine to the next level—by targeting customers' heartstrings as well as their palates.

The company, which debuted its first vintage in April 2022, has been garnering attention at fundraisers throughout the Central Coast. It's now poised to sponsor its own slate of events in 2023, kicking off with a Hearts for Humanity Valentine's Dinner benefitting the Paso Robles Youth Arts Center.

"We conducted research which showed that wine lovers tend to also be very philanthropic," said Steven Jones, co-owner of Humanity Wine Project along with his wife, Kelly. "We thought the idea of combining two passions of one demographic would be a win, win, win for the consumer, charities, and the small producers we source from."

FROM ATASCADERO LAKE WITH LOVE Humanity Wine Project donated bottles from its inaugural vintage at the Atascadero Lakeside Wine Fest in June, which benefited the city's Charles Paddock Zoo. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HUMANITY WINE PROJECT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Humanity Wine Project
  • FROM ATASCADERO LAKE WITH LOVE Humanity Wine Project donated bottles from its inaugural vintage at the Atascadero Lakeside Wine Fest in June, which benefited the city's Charles Paddock Zoo.

The company procures wines from premier American Viticultural Areas statewide, affixes custom labels to the bottles, then sells them online, with 50 percent of the profits benefiting partner charities.

PASSIONATE ABOUT PHILANTHROPY Humanity Wine Project proprietors Steven and Kelly Jones of Paso Robles are living their dream – immersed in California wine production while simultaneously raising funds for partner nonprofit organizations. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HUMANITY WINE PROJECT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Humanity Wine Project
  • PASSIONATE ABOUT PHILANTHROPY Humanity Wine Project proprietors Steven and Kelly Jones of Paso Robles are living their dream – immersed in California wine production while simultaneously raising funds for partner nonprofit organizations.

The couple, both certified sommeliers who met while attending College of the Canyon's Institute for Culinary Education in Santa Clarita, spent six years refining their business model, then relocated to Paso Robles in 2021 in anticipation of their launch.

"We have wanted to move to wine country for some time," Steven said. "The opportunity presented itself, so we jumped at the chance. It just made sense to be a part of the wine community as we grow."

Their fledgling company reflects insight gleaned from Steven's primary position as a wine consultant and co-founder of Wine Resources, a custom crush facility in Lancaster.

Steven has worked with wineries on the Central Coast, as well as in Walla Walla, Washington, he said. His services include business and product development, financial analysis, operations management, and assistance with mergers and acquisitions.

For Humanity Wine Project, the couple employs "a negociant model, similar to Cameron Hughes wines," Steven said.

"In my years of consulting I have found that boutique wineries are often in need of a cash infusion. They agree to sell to us, and we agree to keep them anonymous so as not to impact their brands," he explained. "Kelly and I taste through different lots of wine and select those we feel would be the highest quality, as well as most appreciated by the consumer."

The current vintage was sourced from the Lodi, Sonoma Coast, Rutherford (Napa Valley), Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey), and Adelaida District (Paso Robles) AVAs, Steven said. The company's flagship label is Faithful, designated for animal charities.

"We selected a photo of our dog Otis, sent it to a graphic artist, and he came up with the current design," Steven said. "We loved the style so much that we decided to carry that same feel through the rest of our labels, creating pieces of art."

The company currently offers five wines—chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, a syrah-grenache Rhone blend, and sparkling. The latter two recently won silver medals at the 2023 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Each label carries all five varieties.

For the Hearts for Humanity dinner, for instance, featured wines will carry the Innocence label, which is earmarked for children's charities.

Other labels include Fortitude, for health organizations, and Compassion, for senior and homeless groups.

Being a virtual winery with no brick-and-mortar overhead "allows us to give back more to our partnering charities," Steven added. "We rely on our nonprofit partnerships to help market for us through their social media, emails to donors, etc."

FAITHFUL FRIEND Steven and Kelly Jones' Faithful label is designated for animal charities. The model, 14-year-old Otis, is the couple's pug-terrier mix rescue. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HUMANITY WINE PROJECT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Humanity Wine Project
  • FAITHFUL FRIEND Steven and Kelly Jones' Faithful label is designated for animal charities. The model, 14-year-old Otis, is the couple's pug-terrier mix rescue.

While the couple's commitment to funnel 50 percent of their profits from online sales to charity is impressive, their goal for the upcoming Hearts for Humanity dinner is off-the-charts generous.

In addition to donating all wine poured at the event, the Joneses will contribute 100 percent of the profits from ticket sales to the Paso Robles Youth Arts Center. The final tally will receive a huge assist from Humanity Wine Project's event partners.

Morgen Hoffman reduced her management fee, chef Rachel Ponce reduced her catering costs, All About Events gave a percentage off the rentals, Libretto donated the venue, musical performer Dawn Lambeth donated her time, and Hugo Martinez of HM Imagery reduced his fees, Kelly said.

"We couldn't pull this off without all of them," she said. "Everyone partnering with us for this event has been more than gracious with their time and resources in helping us raise much-needed funding for the Paso Robles Youth Arts Center."

Humanity Wine Project selected the youth-focused organization because of its long history in the community and everything they provide to the youth of the Central Coast at no cost to families.

PAIRING WITH PONCE Chef Rachel Ponce of Paso Robles will be curating Humanity Wine Project's Hearts for Humanity Valentine's Dinner for up to 60 guests. Ponce is a private chef, food and wine pairing instructor, and resident chef and recipe developer for Edible San Luis Obispo magazine. - COURTESY PHOTO BY HUGO MARTINEZ/HM IMAGERY
  • Courtesy Photo By Hugo Martinez/hm Imagery
  • PAIRING WITH PONCE Chef Rachel Ponce of Paso Robles will be curating Humanity Wine Project's Hearts for Humanity Valentine's Dinner for up to 60 guests. Ponce is a private chef, food and wine pairing instructor, and resident chef and recipe developer for Edible San Luis Obispo magazine.

Hearts for Humanity event attendees will be treated to a special Valentine's dinner by chef Ponce paired with Humanity wines.

"Rachel was so supportive of what we are trying to accomplish as a business in our community," Kelly said. "She is creative, talented, and very knowledgeable in her pairings. It will be the most special evening."

Ponce said her menu will showcase “Valentine’s feels by turning prosciutto into roses, starting the seated dinner with some flames, using chocolate and champagne in the short rib dish, and then finishing with fresh raspberries.”

"I met with Morgen, Steven, and Kelly to taste the wines, and from there I developed the menu [and] pairings," she said. "With pairings, I have the wine be part of the dish—the missing ingredient in the dish that the wine will take care of. I want the guests to take a sip, a bite, and then crave another sip, and, of course, show me that happy dance as they are eating."

Ponce said she loves Humanity Wine Project wines and what the company is all about.

"What a perfect way to show awareness of these different foundations," she said. "I choose two fundraisers a year to be involved in, and when this was presented to me, I couldn't say no."

According to the Joneses, Humanity Wine Project donated roughly $22,000 in wine and profits to charitable organizations in 2022.

SWEET ON YOU Chef Rachel Ponce's decadent, layered raspberry cheesecake mousse will cap the upcoming four-course Valentine's dinner hosted by Humanity Wine Project at Libretto in Paso Robles. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PAIR WITH CHEF RACHEL
  • Photo Courtesy Of Pair With Chef Rachel
  • SWEET ON YOU Chef Rachel Ponce's decadent, layered raspberry cheesecake mousse will cap the upcoming four-course Valentine's dinner hosted by Humanity Wine Project at Libretto in Paso Robles.

"We're hoping to build on this first year's success," Kelly added, "but we can only donate so much wine. Ultimately, our main goal is to sell wine so that we can continue to give 50 percent of our profits back to our partnering charities. The more wine we sell, the more we can give back."

Flavor Writer Cherish Whyte is down for savoring great wine for goodwill. Reach her at [email protected].

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