Deborah Hall’s Gypsy Canyon Winery is one of the most coveted producers in the Sta. Rita Hills, thanks to meticulously crafted pinot noir and a fortified, California-history-laced bottling of rediscovered mission grapes called angelica. Yet she was not entirely fulfilled with her liquid contributions to the greater world, so Hall recently launched the Ground Boots label, a fundraising project whose motto is “funding global good, sip by sip.” Last week, she told me a little more about Ground Boots, whose first 100 cases of Santa Barbara County pinot noir are already three-quarters gone, even at $70 a bottle. See groundboots.org.
What prompted this project? It was about this time last year, and I just did a check on my life, my past and my future, and asked, “Who do you want to be?” I’m in my fifties now, so you look back and see what you’ve accomplished. As a child, I always wanted to be a veterinarian, and life took a different turn, so I went back to those roots. At this stage of life, I’m certainly not going back to school, but I wanted to make an impact that wasn’t just making a donation somewhere. Now I know the wine business and have an experienced palate, so the ideas just started flowing, and the next thing you know, I have a whole label with grand plans.
How did you select the first recipient? Soi Dog [Foundation] just came across my Facebook page. They were showing the terrible conditions [for dogs in Thailand], but also showing what they did about it. I went back there last summer and worked with them for two weeks. They were making radical impacts and really saving lives—not just putting a Band-Aid on the situation but fixing the situation. And you can save 10 dogs in Thailand whereas you can only save one here for the same dollar. Plus, the situation is really dire there because of the illegal dog meat trade. I will go back this summer with a journalist and videographer and use social media to show in real time the work that we are doing.
Where did you find the cute, quirky art? I’ve always loved Donald Roller Wilson’s work. If you go to his website, everything will crack you up. He’s in his seventies now and lives in Arkansas. I wanted to commission a piece of work, but he doesn’t do commissions anymore—he just wants to paint what he wants to paint. But he said he would donate any image of his work.
What do you hope will happen with Ground Boots? For me, it is a very fulfilling project to work on. I’m going to continue it, and I want to see it grow phenomenally. I see it as the next Toms of the wine world. I’m a big dreamer.
Do you know who will benefit from the 2013 vintage? No. I am selecting barrels in the next three weeks, but I am open to ideas at the moment.