Kristen Senseman learned to love wine from her parents while growing up in Scottsdale, although the 24-year-old has only been old enough to taste it for a few years. Now she and seven of her friends — all under 30 — have their own label, Hope Wine, a brand with a cause.
Three of them, in fact.
Hope Wine, which was launched in June in California and is available for purchase online at www.hopewine.com, will contribute half the profits from sales of its chardonnay to breast cancer research, from its merlot to AIDS research and from its cabernet to autism research.
The wine should be in Arizona restaurants, supermarkets and wine shops in early 2008, Senseman said.
It already is available in 100 California accounts from Costco to pricey Orange County eateries, she said.
It’s a best seller at Mama D’s in Newport Beach, said general manager Luke Martin, who claims to be the young entrepreneurs’ first customer.
“They brought it in. We tasted the wine and really liked it,” Martin said. “We liked the concept, the wine and those who run the company, the extra attention and personal service.”
When Martin orders most of his wines, he calls the distributor, leaves a voice mail list, and eventually a truck arrives and drops off cases.
Senseman, who divides her time between Scottsdale and Orange County, thinks Arizona will embrace Hope Wine just like California. Senseman, who has a business degree from the University of Arizona, landed a dream job with E. & J. Gallo in California after graduation.
“I knew as a freshman I wanted to get into the wine industry,” she said. She did a stint as a Gallo sales representative for Orange County and later landed a slot at the winery.
But Senseman also had a heart for charitable causes and noticed that while she poured Gallo wine at charity events, the company — and the other major wine makers — didn’t do monthlong “cause marketing,” such as the pink-ribbon promotions by companies like Yoplait or Campbell Soup, which donate a portion of their profits during October to breast cancer awareness and research.
Senseman and like-minded colleagues decided to develop a brand of wine that would benefit charities with a significant contribution, and not just for one month a year, she said.
They quit their jobs in January and took six months to develop Hope Wine.
The fledgling brand hasn’t made any profits, but Senseman said it’s just about to cross over to the black.