Kevin Knutson knows a thing or two about life after military service. As a former marine, Knutson sees first-hand the struggles that veterans battle every day. Mike McCay, a Lodi grape grower and winemaker has a son-in-law that served two tours overseas. So, it comes as no surprise that the two locals teamed up to launch a new wine—Operation Restored Warrior (ORW).
Knutson and McCay have known each other for a couple of decades, and when the two sat down one day to talk about the struggles facing our nation’s veterans, a light bulb went off. “Why not make a wine where 100 percent of the proceeds go back to ORW?” McCay said. “It is a cause we are both passionate about and it seemed like a simple way to make an impact on an organization helping to bring stability to veterans across America.”
You see, Knutson, who served in the Marine Corp. from 1993 to 1999, was turned on to ORW—a non-profit whose goal is to rescue, rebuild, and restore veterans who feel a sense of hopelessness after service—by a friend. Their motto, “Reaching Warriors…restoring their hearts,” spoke to him. With over 24 soldiers taking their lives each day, and 8,000 lives lost each year, Knutson knew he needed to do something.
Knutson became involved with the non-profit in 2008 and went through the program himself in 2015. It was such a transformative process; he took on the role of Executive Director later that year. “ORW has had over 1300 combat veterans go through their program,” Knutson said. “We have been fortunate to have a 100 percent success rate!”
The partnership between Knutson and McCay led to the release of their inaugural wine in early 2019. A 2017 red wine blend of petite sirah, tempranillo, and zinfandel that is as bold as the courageous men and women it aims to help.
After a Southwest Airlines employee got wind of the project, he restored an old metal galley box from a retired plane and turned it into wine storage. McCay filled the box with ORW wine and has it on display in the tasting room. It will be up for silent auction until Veteran’s Day on November 11 when all the proceeds will be donated directly to ORW.
Want to taste it yourself? Buy it onsite at McCay Cellars. Your contribution will assist the organization in bringing functionality back into the lives of our nation’s veterans, one bottle of wine at a time.
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