Giving Grapes: Mano Tinta

Grapes are a generous bunch. Each cluster offers dozens of individual packages of sugars and tannins, seeds and skins. “Have more,” this fruit seems to say, bubbling with berries, “have another one.” Long after they have become wine, these giving grapes likewise inspire a generous nature in others. We bring wine as gifts for those who’ve invited us for dinner, especially during the holiday months. We open a special bottle from our collection of decidedly “not everyday” wines when we’re hosting a gathering for those who also love and appreciate wine. If we’re having a good time around the table telling stories with those we love, we’ll often pour another glass to prolong the pleasures of conversation.

decorated hand print images wineries

Brianna Devereux’s design, 2007 vintage label

Many wineries take the generosity of grapes a step further and donate their finished wines to help raise funds for charitable causes, whether through auctions, raffles, or the like. However, a small but dedicated collection of wineries has made a serious commitment to philanthropy such that it serves as the exclusive focus of a particular label or, in some cases, all the wine produced by a winery. In the case of  Talley Vineyards Mano Tinta label, the generous grapes in these Arroyo Grande wines give even more because all proceeds from the sale of this wine assist those community organizations that provide services to farm workers and vineyard workers in San Luis Obispo County.

In 2004, Brian and Johnine Talley started the San Luis Obispo County Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers, an endowment initially funded from several monetary contributions. Given the healthy start of the endowment, the Talleys hoped to discover a way to sustain this fund and their fund-raising momentum. Talley’s winemaker at the time, Leslie Mead, wondered if it might not work to make a wine from donated grapes and channel the proceeds into the Fund, which would then flow out to the community through the various services channels most relevant to these individuals who pick the grapes that make the wine possible.

Would the Central Coast wine community participate in Mano Tinta, a community project to make a wine from 100% donations that would direct 100% of the sales to benefit a community foundation linked to charities serving the needs of local farm workers and vineyard workers? Absolutely. Almost immediately, the wine community of San Luis Obispo County generously donated all the fruit for the project. Three vineyards in San Luis Obispo donate fruit while an international mix of donors have supplied materials and equipment that have made the project successful from its inaugural year. This evolving project works with the quality ingredients provided by others, the proceeds of which go to others. Organizations receiving assistance from Mano Tinta funds address the following issues facing workers and their families: education, child welfare, housing, literacy, health care, and prosthetic limbs.

2006 Mano Tinta red wine label

Mano Tinta label with 2008 contest winner artwork

It’s been surprising to many of those involved with the Mano Tinta project how it has gained momentum so quickly. In 2008, for example, there were three times too many people for the tasks involved with bottling the 2006 vintage. Everyone wanted to do a little something to help out even though there were far too many helpers. Together, they made short work of the labeling and packing of 500 cases. So many people want to be involved because “Mano Tinta is a very honest product,” says Anna Heacock, Talley’s marketing and regional sales manager.

Talley serves as a conduit for people who love wine to give back to the grape pickers who make the production of every vintage possible. The particular Mano Tinta wine made in a given year depends on what fruit gets donated. One year it was all Syrah. Other years have produced blends of fruit that work together elegantly. A strong integrity infuses the project, from the donations of everything for winemaking and labeling to the art show that materializes when local artists submit their work for the label. Artists range in age from 6 years old to 80+. Probably one of the more difficult things with Mano Tinta is to decide upon just one image that will grace that year’s vintage. So many wonderful, thoughtful entries are submitted every summer and the numbers keep growing, as does the quality of the art.

The Talley family has worked to ensure that this project enjoys longevity. They recommend to other wineries that also might consider starting up such a project to keep it local. By keeping this project local, the proceeds from the sale of Mano Tinta wine in San Luis Obispo more directly supports the farm workers and vineyard workers who live in the San Luis Obispo community. Central Coast restaurants also get involved every August and pour Mano Tinta by the glass.

Talley Vineyards property with vinesIf you know of a winery that wants to start up a similar program, the folks at Talley Vineyards would be happy to provide counsel for how to initiate and sustain the project. Experience suggests that having a winemaker head up the project works well. If anyone reading this or someone you know might want to donate fruit or other materials for the Mano Tinta project, contact Talley Vineyards.

This article first appeared on

photos: Talley Vineyards

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