I’ve often had bad wine for a good cause and I’ve occasionally had good wine for a bad cause, but I don’t usually see a great wine for a great cause. And when the wine is served at a fantastic location, it is a rare event indeed. That was the case for the official launch of Purple Heart Wines at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
The Purple Heart is a military decoration awarded by Congress in the name of the President to members of the Armed Forces who have been wounded in combat while serving with one of the Armed Services. The award, which has roots dating back to the American Revolution when it was called the Badge of Military Merit, has been given to Military personnel retroactive to 1917. The Purple Heart Foundation is a veteran’s organization dedicated to assisting the needs of US military servicemen and women and their families. To support the efforts of this organization through increased awareness and fundraising, the C. Mondavi and Family created Purple Heart wines. California winemaker Ray Coursen was chosen to be the head winemaker. This was a fitting choice as Ray is not just a veteran winemaker, but he is also an Army veteran who served in Vietnam.
After graduating from Stockbridge Agricultural College at the University of Massachusetts, Ray landed his first winery job at Mt Eden Winery in Saratoga, New York. After stints at Tonella Vineyard Management and Whitehall Lane Winery in Napa Valley, Ray and his wife Nancy started their own label in the mid 1980’s and created Elyse Winery, named after their daughter. Here Ray produces Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhone Blends. His experience in producing top flight red wines was one of the reasons he was chosen to make the wine for the Purple Heart Foundation. This wine is a red blend from grapes from Napa Valley. The 2013 vintage is comprised of 84% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. It has aromas of blackberries, plum and licorice. It is also a tangible tribute honoring the determination, bravery and commitment of America’s military heroes.
The launch of Purple Heart Wines was held on the Intrepid Air and Space Museum, which was not only fitting, but spectacular. I’m ashamed to admit that, even though I’m a native New Yorker; this was only my second visit to the Intrepid. The first came in the early 1990’s when I attended an event on the Intrepid with my father (a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force) that celebrated Ernie Pyle, Eric Severeid, Edward R. Murrow and other journalists who made reports from the front during WWII. Launched in 1943, the USS Intrepid fought in World War II, surviving multiple kamikaze attacks and a torpedo strike. The ship also served in the Vietnam War and was a NASA recovery vessel in the 1960s. The aircraft carrier was decommissioned in 1974, and is now berthed at Pier 86 on the Hudson River at West 46th Street and is the centerpiece for the Intrepid Museum.
I salute the Mondavi Family for creating Purple Heart Wines; I salute the great work of the Purple Heart Foundation and most of all I salute all of our veterans, especially the “Greatest Generation” (like my father and my two uncles) who served during WWII.
Paul Englert of C Mondavi & Family, winemaker Ray Coursen and Jeff Roy of The Purple Heart Foundation