Leading lifestyle publication VICE shines a light on the Oregon wine industry for a unique mobile healthcare service co-founded by Ponzi Vineyards’ own founder Nancy Ponzi in the early 1990’s. Many of the field workers in the region’s wineries are immigrants or undocumented, so they do not benefit from our healthcare system. To combat this, Ponzi helped introduce ¡Salud! The Oregon Pinot Noir Auction, a hugely profitable fundraising event from Oregon’s most prized vintners. All proceeds provide low-cost healthcare via mobile vans for vineyard workers and their families, treating between 2,500 and 4,000 vineyard workers and their families annually.
“For a lot of these patients, this is it. This is their only visit of the year,” said Leda Garside, nurse and services manager for ¡Salud!
The writer spoke to Nancy Ponzi, who added: “Immigration and the seeming fear of and war on immigrants were not hot political issues 28 years ago.” She continued, “I view it more as a responsibility we have as owners of these businesses to take care of our workers. They don’t have a safety net of any kind.”
The writer explains that employees at Tuality Healthcare, a nearby community hospital, invited Ponzi and another winemaker to a meeting to discuss putting on a collaborative event such as a tasting or festival.
“When we left the meeting, we thought, ‘Oh man, we can’t have another event,’” Ponzi said. “We have the opportunity to do much more than a marketing thing… The most meaningful thing we could do in healthcare and wineries is with the field workers. They have so little protection and resources.”
As further context, the writer notes “she and her husband Dick Ponzi, who started their winery in 1970, and were among a group of family-owned wineries that laid the groundwork for what is now a multibillion-dollar industry that includes more than 700 wineries. Around 40 of those wineries participate in Salud—donating their time, resources, and product to create the exclusive vintages that attract high bidders. Though not all wineries participate, Salud’s services are extended to any vineyard worker.”
“In my very biased opinion, I think the (winemakers) who came to Oregon came here because they wanted to make wine, they didn’t want to get rich,” Ponzi said. “It’s a group of people who are idealistic and for the most part passionate, generous and philanthropic.”
To read the full story and more about Ponzi Vineyards’ involvement, read here!
Chehalem Mountain AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Dick and Nancy Ponzi helped put Oregon on the map in the United States and the world, and the Ponzi family has worked continuously for over 50 years leading and innovating in the region and, in the case of Pinot Noir, across the country and indeed the world. Today winemaker Luisa Ponzi continues her work of the last 30 years with the family of Champagne Bollinger, which acquired Ponzi Vineyards in 2021.