The Coast News Group
A group of seven friends decided to start a wine company, “Minority Vines,” with the intention of benefitting students from underrepresented backgrounds on their way to college. Pictured (from left to right): Jerome Stewart and Erika Viviani from Point Loma, Tracy Martinez and Alan Wittgrove from Del Mar, and Jason Schmidt from Costa Mesa. Photo courtesy of DeWavez Photography
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Friends partner in wine venture benefitting students

DEL MAR — Local resident Tracy Martinez was initially joking when she told a group of friends she planned to start a wine label — particularly with the intention to help students from minority backgrounds find their way to college.

The group had been sipping wine in St. Helena in 2017, mired in a conversation on the divisive political and social climate and finding themselves “very saddened by the growth in minority discrimination and bias,” said Martinez, a registered nurse and six-year Del Mar resident.

Galvanized to create positive change, the group soon made Martinez’s kidding call to action a reality.

The seven friends became partners in creating “Minority Vines,” a wine company aimed at benefitting students from underrepresented backgrounds who are “academically outstanding,” but in need of financial support.

So far, fundraising efforts through wine sales have yielded over $2,000, to benefit a scholarship foundation out of Bishop Mora Salesian High School in Los Angeles.

To get to that point, the partners faced a steep learning curve. But one thing was clear: they wanted to create a wine that would offer up a lesson in both taste and philosophy — reminding its drinkers of the importance of diversity.

Partnering with wine maker Jonathan Gelula, they underwent a seven-month process of nailing down the taste through samples and test groups.

The end product? “Diversity,” a red blend made with a mix of grapes from Lodi, Lake County and Amador County.

The group held their first fundraiser in March: The event packed a local Italian restaurant with almost 60 guests, and the partners sold six and a half cases of wine.

With their first fundraiser behind them, the partners are looking to host a similar event quarterly — Martinez said they are planning to hold the next fundraiser in Santa Monica.

Although current efforts are focused on Bishop Mora Salesian, Martinez said Minority Vines is hoping to benefit a different high school every two years — focusing on one at a time in order to make the greatest impact.

They are also expanding their vision by featuring the stories of prominent and successful immigrants on their webpage, while working to add a white wine to their offerings on top of “Diversity.”

So far, Martinez said the biggest challenge for the partners was finding time amidst their varied careers to bring the idea to fruition.

“It wasn’t an easy endeavor,” Martinez said.

But at the end of the day, Martinez said the partners are just “having fun with it,” benefitting students in need of financial assistance and enjoying the positive response from the community in the process.

“There’s a lot of love out there,” Martinez said.