Making Every Drink Count with Hope’s Dash
September 10, 2008 by Doug Haugen
Wino Doug Haugen had the chance to talk with Hope Moore, founder of Heaven’s Cave Winery and the Make the Dash Count Foundation.
WINO: We visited Heaven’s Cave last July when we were in Prosser, and Ali told us a lot about what Heaven’s Cave does. For the benefit of our readers, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your winery?
Hope: We are a small-case winery that currently produces about 1,000 cases a year. All of the fruit for our Heaven’s Cave wines comes from the Destiny Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills appellation. We like to think of ourselves as a purpose-driven winery in that we are a for-benefit winery that chooses to donate 100 percent of our proceeds, after operating expenses, to charity—in this case, the Make the DASH Count Foundation.
WINO: Where did the idea for the Make the Dash Count Foundation come from?
Hope: You know, several years ago I went through a really difficult time in my life. It was while I was visiting the gravesite of my father, who’d died from brain cancer, that I was struck by the symbolism of that little dash between the dates of birth and death. Such a little dash that represented so much. Right then and there, I decided I wanted to “make my dash count” for something.
WINO: Was Heaven’s Cave the first contributor to Dash? Is it still the only fund-raising arm?
Hope: “Heaven’s No” (no pun intended). Heaven’s Cave may have been the first business to contribute to Make the Dash Count, but it has certainly been joined by many individual donors and businesses. This year we also received our first foundation grant as well. The winery covers all of the operating expenses for the foundation, but the grants that are given to local community youth programs are funded by direct contributions from the community. We like to think that donations to the Foundation are more than just a gift; they really are an investment in the future of our youth. When people donate directly to the Foundation their gift has many impacts. We like to call it the “triple bottom line”—our board members learn from it, the youth programs they support receive sometimes critical funding to keep their programs alive, and the best gift is long term when these youth become the future leaders in our communities. [Editors note: the Make the Dash Count Foundation uses a “Youth Board” to make decisions regarding fund allocation. Young people are selected for the board by their piers from diverse backgrounds.]
The winery also hosts an annual fundraising event called “The Dash Race for the Kids” It’s held on Memorial Day weekend and includes running and biking races. Most of the local wineries are involved, either with sponsorship or team participation. And the course is great, so we’ve been told.
WINO: How did you decide on the name “Heaven’s Cave?”
Hope: [Laughs] This was almost as difficult as picking a name for my son, Geoffrey. I’ve been in marketing for a long time, and I’ve always said, “You’re only new once,” so it was both exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. Anyone who’s ever started a business can appreciate what I’m talking about—you lie in bed at night thinking about names, you call your friends and ask them, “What do you think about this one?” In the end, Ali and I were talking at my kitchen counter in Gig Harbor and suddenly, there it was—Heaven’s Cave. I can still remember the time—12:35 a.m. See, we’re building a facility at the edge of Destiny Ridge Vineyard, just overlooking the Columbia River. It’s part residence for me, part venue for fundraising events for the Make the DASH Count Foundation and part production area—the lowest level is actually a “cave” built (actually blasted) into the side of the ridge. For us, the name has a lot of symbolism, but like most names, it probably means more to us than anyone else. The only problem is that sometimes people call it Heaven’s Gate [Laughs], but we answer to both [Smiles].
WINO: [Laughs] I totally know what you mean. If you’d believe it, we went through a similar process with WINO. And, I have to admit, I’ve slipped and referred to you as Heaven’s Gate, but at least I’ve been talking about you, right? [Laughs] So, how did you get started?
Hope: At first, I thought I would just start a foundation so I could have a way to involve my son in making decisions about charitable giving as a family. Then I thought, “Well, if it would be good for my son, wouldn’t it be better with a group of youth.” I’ve always thought that experience is the better teacher, and if you want to teach youth about leadership and giving back to their communities, the best way to teach them is to let them do it.
Our youth board members learn everything from Robert’s Rules of Order, how to read a balance sheet, how to evaluate a prospective grantee’s application. But what’s really tough is when they have to make the final decisions about where the funding should go. I’m constantly amazed at how capable they are, if just given the opportunity. Most of us don’t have an opportunity for this kind of experience until we’re well into our 30’s or 40’s.
WINO: That’s true. I joined my first non-profit when I was nearing thirty. What I found out was that a lot of times, non-profit can be a thankless job, and the reward can be merely in knowing that you are doing good for humanity, even despite the struggle.
Hope: Yes, I remember the first board I sat on. I was clueless in the beginning; the non-profit world was so foreign to me.
WINO: So, has there been a positive response to Heaven’s Cave?
Hope: The response has been amazing. After about a year, I realized I needed to get out of my own way and let this thing grow. I discovered that the foundation really had a life force of its own, far beyond my original vision of a single youth board. The response to the foundation from our winery customers has been incredible. They really enjoy our wine, and especially love the cause behind the glass.
WINO: Can you give me an example or tell a little anecdote about someone who has benefited from Make the Dash Count?
Hope: The story that comes to mind first was one of our early youth board members. She came onto our board a very shy, quiet teen with a troubled background from a tough neighborhood with a lot of gang violence. After serving on the youth board for a year, she discovered that her voice was as powerful as anyone else’s, and her opinion mattered. She would tell you that her experience on the board was life-changing. She ended up applying for and receiving a Gates Scholarship and attending WSU on a full-ride scholarship. She told me that that decision was based primarily on her scholarship essay, where she wrote about how serving on the youth board empowered her. She then went on to receive the Tacoma “City of Destiny” Youth Leadership Award. Talk about a change! From a teen with no voice and no confidence to an accomplished community leader and activist. I thought then that if that was the only success we had—to change a life like that—then we’d accomplished a lot.
WINO: Women are becoming a lot more visible in what was once thought to be a male-dominated wine industry. What’s it like to be a “woman of wine?”
Hope: I’ve never really thought about it that way. I spent sixteen years working for IBM at a time when it was a sea of white button-down shirts and sincere ties. [Laughs] I managed an all male sales team, and they called me “the skirt.” [Laughs] Even in this male-dominated company, I never attributed my success to anything other than hard work and focus. The wine industry is much more gracious than that. It’s like a big fraternity where everyone wants to see you succeed and is always willing to help. I just think of us as people in the wine industry rather than men and women. We’re all in it for the same reason, because we’re passionate about the industry, the friendships that we make and the people we meet. I’ve learned how to drive a semi truck and a harvester, much to the surprise of some of my male friends! Yes, we’re an all-woman shop right now, but we don’t function in a vacuum. We work with a lot of men, and we like it that way.
WINO: If gender doesn’t matter in the wine community, do you feel being a woman has any impact on being in the charity business?
Hope: Not necessarily. I think philanthropy is a state of mind. It’s either part of our consciousness or it’s not. My philanthropic roots come from my grandmother and grandfather equally. And my mother is a perfect example. As a kid, I used to ask her, “Why do you spend so much time raising money for other people?” and she always said, “Because I can and I should.” While it may be true that women have traditionally been more involved in fundraising and volunteer activities, I think men and women can be equally charitable in nature.
WINO: At the Heaven’s Cave tasting room, it’s not just HC wines for sale. Tell me about some of the winemakers that participate in Heaven’s Cave good work.
Hope: Early on, before we started making our own Heaven’s Cave wines, we started producing wines under the Make the DASH Count label as part of “The Dash Wine Project.” Each of these wines was made in partnership with other vintners and winemakers around Washington State. Chuck Reininger was our first partner who helped create our inaugural 2002 Merlot. Our Angel’s Blend Bordeaux is made in partnership with Alexandria Nicole. I owe a lot of what I have learned in this industry to their winemaker Jarrod Boyle. Tom and Anne-Marie Hedges of Hedges Estate and Greg and Stacy Lill of DeLille Cellars have also partnered with us in the Dash Wine Project. Their support has helped me keep the dream alive. In fact, Stacy has taken it a step further and is now also producing her own label called “O” where a portion of the proceeds go to support scholarships for young girls.
WINO: I’ve been reading about O Wines lately. Do you think wine and charity “pairings”— [laughs] sorry for the pun, but I had to use it—will become more common?
Hope: The wine industry has always been a very “give back” industry with all the major wine auctions benefiting various charities. I think you’ll see more of this.
WINO: So, things are going well with the winery, the new facility is coming along, and the Make the Dash Count Foundation has taken on a life of its own. What’s next for you?
Hope: What’s next, wow, there’s still much work to be done. The winery is just getting started, and I still need to earn my stripes as a winemaker. I also need to learn how to drive a heister. [Smiles] Our business is still small and we need to let people know we’re here.
The foundation is going to have a major push on fundraising this year, our next youth board location has been identified as the Immokalee area of Florida, just outside Naples. A high-need area, juxtaposed to a very affluent community. But first we have to raise the money. I’ll be very busy.