When Josh Laine returned to Livermore, California in 2007 after serving in the Marines in Iraq, he knew he wanted a job that required hands-on work. His girlfriend at the time worked for a winery and introduced him to the agricultural side of the wine business. This is how Valor Winery was born.
“I didn’t know anything about wine,” Laine says. “I didn’t even really know how it was made,” he laughs. But this didn’t stop him from buying an acre of land and investing $15,000 into the business, all in one year. It didn’t take too long for him to figure out he needed help.
“Some of the Marines I served with weren’t doing too well with their lives,” Laine recalls. “I wanted to help them as a way to keep my own life from going down a bad path, so I asked them to help me plant vines and clean equipment.”
Soon, the wives and girlfriends of the veterans began telling Laine that their partners seemed less angry at home. Also, vineyard work proved to be so physically demanding that some of the men were able to sleep more restfully and experience fewer war-related nightmares.
Today, Valor Winery employs more than 50 veterans who do anything from marketing and sales to mapping out new vineyards, maintaining the vines and providing IT support. “So many veterans are coming back now [from overseas],” notes Laine. “For some of them, this is a pit-stop and they work here for a few months. We help them move on to something bigger and better. But others have been here the whole five years and love it.”
Valor Winery produced a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Sangiovese. The wines retail for $15 to $40. All of the proceeds go to the winery’s Vets & Vines Foundation, whose goal is to give veterans with physical and emotional limitations an opportunity to learn a trade in a supportive environment.
Besides producing “awesome wine,” Laine says that Valor Winery provides “stability and camaraderie. We’re helping veterans transition back into civilian life.”
Valor Winery is open to the public the first weekend of each month and by appointment. The wines are available in some Northern California stores and can be ordered directly from the winery by calling (925) 321-0373. Look for them on Facebook.
I dedicate this post to all of the women and men who have served our country, especially my husband, Señor Jim, who served in the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division from 1968-1969 in Vietnam.