Vintner's prized wine serves charitable purpose

July 25, 2008 7:29:18 PM PDT
A Napa Valley vintner is famous not only for his prized wine, but for the unusual way he uses it to do good around the world.

His name is Dick Grace. By the end of this story you might call him "Amazing Grace."

"The gap between the haves and have-nots is a painful gap and it's too wide. So in our little tiny way, we try to narrow the gap,"

It all began in 1976 with the spontaneous purchase of an old Victorian in the Napa Valley and the decision to plant a small vineyard. Grace is a former San Francisco stockbroker. He and his wife Ann knew nothing about agriculture. But from day one, their cabernet sauvignon has been hugely successful.

"It captured the imagination. Some people say it was the first cult wine," says Grace.

Ironically, Dick Grace doesn't drink at all. He's a recovering alcoholic, but he believes his wine serves a purpose. The motto here is wine is a catalyst towards healing the planet.

"I stopped drinking a little over 20 and a half years ago, and with that, the winery took on a slightly different mission," says Grace.

Grace had always donated to children's charities, but in 1991 he began meeting with the kids he was helping. The first was a terminally ill black boy in Alabama.

"He changed the course of my life. The message was basically a message of love, a message of compassion, of understanding," explains Grace.

Grace decided to use his wine as a vehicle to uplift children of the world.

"For the price that one bottle of our wine brings in some of America's fanciest restaurants, we can educate, clothe, house and feed three children well for one year in Nepal, Tibet, India or China," says Grace.

His Grace Family Foundation has auctioned off bottles of wine at charity events. Huge bottles have gone for an incredible $100,000 combined with contributions from supporters, he has raised at least $25 million. It's enough money to renovate an orphanage in China and start a food program there, to offer tsunami relief in India and to rescue children begging on the streets, to build a medical clinic in Nepal and to fund projects right here at home.

He was one of the first to support Elaine Taylor 17 years ago.

"We both believe that in doing good with children, it just sets the world on a better path," says Taylor.

Her Taylor Family Foundation created Camp Arroyo in Livermore where children with special needs can just be kids. It's free of charge because of generous donations from people like Dick Grace.

"Probably my favorite line that Dick uses is, 'saving the world one child at a time,'" says Taylor.

Another Bay Area recipient is the family house in San Francisco, a home away from home for families whose loved ones are undergoing treatment at UCSF Children's Hospital.

"Dick is all about kids and helping kids and helping kids and helping people who need a leg up," says Alexandre Morgan, CEO of Family House. "Dick has changed people's lives over and over and over."

For Grace it's not just a matter of giving money, the 70-year-old Buddhist also gives of himself, spending months in rural villages. His successful vineyard has made it all possible, but he says anyone can be and should be a philanthropist.

"There's philanthropy of your vision, of your talent, of your energy, of your time, of your capital, but most important, there's philanthropy of your love," says Grace.

ABC7 salutes Dick Grace who truly is amazing. If you'd like to learn more about his foundation or make a donation, visit www.gracefamilyvineyards.com.

To learn more about Camp Arroyo, click here.


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