It all started in a California garage in the 1960s. And it wasn’t a rock band. The idea was to make a great wine that was affordable. That in itself was a challenge, but Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey wanted to do more. They continued to perfect their project and, in 1986, they launched Barefoot Wine & Bubbly and the quest of producing wine and bubbly for charity began.
The idea of pouring wine at charity events instead of just donating bottles is the unique premise Barefoot goes by. They don’t just send bottles and there are no samples given out at the Modesto, California, winery where the products are produced. If you want to taste Barefoot Wines you need to find them at an event around the country where a “Barefooter” – the name for the company’s employees who go around from event to event – will be happy to let you have (at least one) sample of the product.
Barefoot Wine & Bubbly has helped various organizations raise over three million dollars. Their top charity, though, is the non-profit Surfrider Foundation. They have teamed with Surfrider to raise money and created the “Barefoot Beach Rescue Project.” As part of their commitment, each Barefooter in the company must volunteer for at least two beach cleanups a year. And they don’t mind at all as they were hired with the motto, “Get Barefoot and have a great time!”
In between charity events, Barefooters also get to attend state food and wine festivals and special events, like the Indianapolis Tennis Championships and the Sundance Film Festival. And the best part of all – the company, which was purchased by E&J Gallo in 2005, also makes great wine. Barefoot’s Pinot Grigio, which is highly fruity, sells for around $10 and has been written up in the Wall Street Journal as one of its favorites in that category. The slightly sweeter Moscato (which can be found for even less than the Pinot) is another popular option, though the Chardonnay is their best seller at about $12 a bottle. There are a total of 15 Barefoot wines, with the Riesling as their latest release.
You don’t have to become an official Barefooter to help out with Barefoot Wine & Bubbly. Check out their website for volunteer opportunities in the Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project. There is also a list of events to attend where you can sample the wines.