Monday, February 24 2020 8:00

Choosing Wine for Your Fundraiser

Written by Fred Naddeo

Whether it's a large annual gala or a private event in a wine cave, good wines lubricate good causes.


Part of the fun at many fundraisers is the food and drink that enhance guests’ enjoyment at the event. Addressing just the drinks aspect, and more specifically wine, serving well-chosen wines can create a more festive atmosphere, encourage more participation in planned activities—like auctions and wine pulls—and even amplify donor generosity overall.

Careful planning for the wine you serve can help it be a star. Whether served at your event or used as a prize (see the sidebar), there are many great choices at a wide range of price points. In Pennsylvania, one way to find interesting wines at affordable prices is from the Chairman’s Selection program, offering hand-picked wines typically sold for a fraction of their list prices and an excellent value.

And even if you’re not planning a fundraiser, these recommendations work equally well for your next gathering … or even your private enjoyment.


Wines for Sipping

For tasty wines that appeal to a wide range of people, I recommend two malbecs. The first is from Mendoza, Argentina—Zuccardi Serie A Malbec Valle de Uco 2018 for $9.99. This easy-drinking wine is medium-bodied and full of dark fruit notes. It was highly rated by both James Suckling and The Wine Advocate.

Another wine to try, also from Mendoza, is Luigi Bosca Malbec Single Vineyard Luján de Cuyo 2016 D.O.C. for $15.99. This one is a complex, medium- to full-bodied wine, showing hints of blueberry overlaid by chocolate notes.

Ask your wine specialist for additional ideas. They love helping pair wine with your special event!


Wine for Dinners

For a fundraising dinner party, consider wines from the Rombauer Vineyards brand, a perfect complement to food. Founded in 1980 by Koerner and Joan Rombauer, this vineyard’s first wines were released in 1984.

Two recommended Rombauer wines are chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. In 1993, the Carneros chardonnay made its first of four appearances on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines list, propelling it to become one of the most popular chardonnays. Look for Rombauer Vineyards Chardonnay Carneros 2017 for $39.99. It’s rich and full bodied with butter and vanilla notes that complement the fruit flavors.

For a red wine option, try Rombauer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley for $64.99. It’s a full bodied and complex cabernet with spice notes and smooth tannins that carry the wine to a long finish.

When Joan passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2002, the Rombauer family created an endowment for the University of California, San Francisco’s pancreatic research efforts and Napa Valley Hospice & Adult Day Services. Your purchase will also support these efforts.


Budget-Friendly Options

Wines don’t have to be pricey to be good. If you’re looking for a less expensive wine that your guests will love, try Marietta Cellars OVR Old Vine Red Lot 68 for $13.99. It’s a Californian red blend made primarily of zinfandel, but with many different grape varieties and different vintages. With beautiful color and bright fruit characteristics, this wine is always a crowd favorite.

The vineyard owner, Scot Bilbro, grew up watching his dad craft this wine, which was first released in 1982. He follows in his father’s footsteps, combining the art and science of winemaking to bring magic to your table. Your guests will love this wine as much as the critics have over the years.

If you’d like to serve sparkling wine at your event, but champagne isn’t in your budget, I suggest Saint-Hilaire Brut Sparkling for $13.99. This is France’s oldest sparkling wine. In fact, there are records that show the monks of Saint-Hilaire were making this wine in 1531. That’s more than a century before champagne was “discovered” by Dom Pérignon!

The wine is still made in the same foothills of southern France today. It has yeasty notes on the creamy texture supported by citrus and apple flavors. Perfect for toasting good causes!

Because of their broad appeal, these wines work well served at your fundraiser or used as in raffle baskets or wine pulls. If you have a specific price point or theme in mind for your event, your local wine specialist will have many other suggestions. Cheers! 


What started as a hobby is now a career. Fred Naddeo began his wine journey more than 20 years ago when his wife bought a bottle of Black Tower Riesling to try something different. It marked the beginning of an exploration of the amazing world of wine that continues to this day. Fred is a wine specialist at the Springfield Fine Wine & Good Spirits store on Baltimore Pike in Springfield. Learn more at


Fundraising with Wine

Wine can add an extra dimension to your fundraising with a variety of fun activities. There are the ever-popular wine auctions and raffles, for which some vineyards and wine sellers offer special discounts to nonprofit groups.

Or try custom label wine sales. A little internet research will find companies specializing in creating a wine for your event or organization, bottled with a special label. Wine tastings and wine and cheese fundraisers are also popular.

A newer trend is the wine pull, a.k.a. wine wall, wine grab or wine toss—only this last one requires some skill. The rules are simple: guests make a donation then select a mystery wine—from the wall, table, trunk, etc. The wines are wrapped to hide their identity so guests don’t know if they’ve chosen a budget wine or a blockbuster!


Tips on Serving Wine

Serving wine at your fundraiser? Here’s some advice to help you plan.

First, make sure there’s a return policy for unopened bottles of wine. That gives you leeway when you place your order. Calculate 5-ounce pours per glass, so that’s 5 glasses from each 750 ml bottle.

Next, plan to serve non-alcoholic options—coffee, tea, soft drinks, water and sparkling water. Some guests prefer not to drink, and these options also help guests pace and control their intake. Also serve food so your guests aren’t drinking on empty stomachs.

The guiding rule on the amount of wine needed is one drink per person per hour of the event. Note that guests tend to drink less in the afternoon than in the evening, and more at seated dinners (plan two glasses per person per hour then).

Most events serve an equal mix of red and white wines, plus some sparkling wines added for … sparkle.

Position drink stations to maximize the flow of your guests. And finally, consider hiring professional bartenders who are experts at serving and at handling issues that may arise with guests.

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