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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Rainbow Ridge: Wine & Dandy
GLBT Technology & Business Series
by Andrew Davis
2003-12-31

This article shared 6563 times since Wed Dec 31, 2003
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Pictured: Tom Beatty ( left ) and Dennis Costa.

If the Alicante Bouschet has not yet touched your lips, it probably will very soon—for a couple of reasons. First, the wine, often referred to as the 'King of Color,' is a product of Rainbow Ridge Wines, a business based in Palm Springs, Calif., that's probably the world's first [ openly ] gay-owned winery. Second, this isn't run-of-the-mill vino. The Alicante Bouschet has won many honors, including a 91 rating ( out of 100 ) from Wine Enthusiast Magazine and a bronze medal at the 2003 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Windy City Times spoke with Rainbow Ridge co-owners—and life partners—Dennis Costa and Tom Beatty. These amiable fellows left no stone unturned, discussing their initial meeting, upcoming products—and situational resemblance to a certain 1960s sitcom. Windy City Times: When did you start your business? Dennis Costa: We became incorporated on June 13, 2002, after which we started trademarking our product, etc. We're incorporated in Nevada and then moved to Palm Springs in April, 2003. We're doing things a little differently than other wineries. Instead of having a retail space to sell wine to the public, we're selling our product by the pallet to the distributors and then asking them how we can help them sell the [ wine ] . WCT: I saw on your Web site [ www.rainbowridgewines.com ] that you told Lavender magazine that your business is like a gay 'Green Acres.' Why? DC: Actually, that's more about Tommy than it is about me. We met at the L.A. Gay Rodeo back in April, 1997. Shortly afterwards, Tommy helped me run what was at the time a young vineyard. Also, it was because Tommy was the young city boy who came out and helped me at the farm. When I first met Tommy, I asked him to come out and visit me. When he came to visit, I told him that my house had dirt floors. I actually drove past my house to a shop that had real dirt floors and told him that's where I lived. You should've seen the look on his face. [ Laughs ] WCT: Tell me about your premier wine, the Alicante Bouschet? DC: It's a 2001 vintage. We currently have the 2002 vintage in barrels. We have the capacity to double what we did last year so we're not quite sure if we're going to increase that vintage. WCT: How did you discover the wine? DC: At a Thanksgiving reunion in Lodi, Calif., my cousin Patrick, who was with this association of growers, brought an experimental version of the wine. After tasting it, Tommy and I looked at each other and said that it was a phenomenal product. The light bulbs went on and we asked Patrick if he would like to market the wine to the gay and lesbian community while we designed the label. He agreed and we went ahead with the business. WCT: Now how did you come up with the name Rainbow Ridge? DC: We knew that we wanted something that identified with the rainbow [ symbol ] . What makes me angry are people who don't want to be identified with it. Why would you not want to identify with a symbol that represents a safe haven for us? So we felt strongly about having a rainbow on the label and 'Rainbow Ridge' sounded nice to us. We were thinking about having the rainbow colors around something like a mountain ridge. Practically all of my clothes have rainbow symbols on them, including these gym shorts. One day, I was twisting around the triangle symbol on one leg when I realized that it suddenly [ resembled ] a cluster of grapes. That's how Rainbow Ridge was born. That happened in April, 2002. In May, Tommy and I went to New Orleans. A bartender at a nightclub we went to had a tattoo of grapes on his arm. [ The design ] was almost perfect for what we wanted to do. We asked him where he got the tattoo, went there, and got grape cluster tattoos. That's where the logo came from. WCT: Is there nothing you won't do to help your company? DC: There is absolutely nothing we won't do. [ Laughs ] We're committed to this venture. Our concept for the company involves pooling the talents of our friends and family to make a [ great ] business. WCT: Now has Rainbow Ridge gone public [ with IPOs ] ? DC: Not yet. We'll probably go public next year around this time. The most important thing right now is to structure the company so that it's profitable. WCT: You're introducing new products soon? DC: Yes. We're coming out with the 2002 Alicante Bouschet as well as the 2002 chardonnay. [ Note: The products should be labeled by the time you read this article. ] By the first quarter [ of 2004 ] , we'll be working on a line specifically for GLBT bars and nightclubs. WCT: How have computers helped you? DC: Wow. They've helped in every part of our business, from inventory to distribution. The Web site has also helped our company. WCT: What's the best part about working with Tom? DC: He's just incredible. He's smart and gives all of himself to the company. WCT: Tom, tell me about the charities that Rainbow Ridge contributes to. Tom Beatty: We believe in giving. We identified four charities: the Gay & Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada, the Desert AIDS Project ( in Palm Springs ) , the San Francisco Gay & Lesbian Center, and AIDS Project Los Angeles. We plan on presenting checks to our charities in January. The checks won't be the largest because we're just starting. I always tell people, though, that my dream is to write million-dollar checks to charities—and that day will come. WCT: That will be a wonderful day, indeed. TB: It will be. We always joke that we want to be on The Oprah Winfrey Show. I remember when she came to town and, you know, everything she touches turns to gold. More importantly, though, we believe in her philosophy of helping others through giving. There's a need for business leaders to step forward and [ contribute ] . WCT: What's the most frustrating part of your business? TB: It seems as if gay businesses are not taken seriously. We've talked with other business owners and it seems that [ the public ] takes [ what we sell ] as fun or novel. One of the conflicts with the research we conducted was that there are companies ( like Skyy and Smirnoff ) that are straight but that compete for the gay dollar. I think that those are quality products but the fact is that we can also produce quality products and compete in this marketplace. One interesting company I came across is [ the primarily African-American clothing line ] FUBU, which means For Us, By Us. It's not necessarily for [ Blacks ] ; it's saying that they can sell the items within the community but they want to share them with others. WCT: Your product definitely crosses over into the heterosexual market. TB: Yes. Nowhere on the bottle does it say that it's a gay wine. It's just a good wine. Attitudes can be really frustrating; it's almost an internalized homophobia within the GLBT community. They don't want to take things seriously until they see them in mainstream America. WCT: You've talked about the most frustrating part, but what's the most rewarding aspect of your business? TB: The most rewarding part is seeing people get excited about [ the business ] . We hosted a wine cruise and I don't think there were any gay people on board. We presented our product to 100 people and told them that the wine was targeted to the gay and lesbian community. Immediately, there was a hush. However, after they got to know us, we discovered what we had in common. We were kissing and hugging and made a lot of new friends that weekend. WCT: Well, if you kiss and hug people you're definitely going to make new friends. TB: [ Laughs ] [ Making new friends ] is one of the most gratifying parts of it. WCT: About that cruise ... when you mentioned that you were targeting the GLBT community, do you think they felt that they shouldn't have been drinking the wine because they weren't gay or lesbian? Do you think the passengers felt excluded? TB: A few did, but I feel that we are always excluded. We had a few people say that but we always joked that ' [ t ] he wine's not gay, we are. If it turns you gay, it's just a little something extra.' The humor breaks the ice. WCT: What's the best thing about working with Dennis? TB: Working with Dennis just confirms the feelings I had for him when I first met him. He's so tremendously talented and he amazes me every day with his knowledge, compassion, and ability to connect with people. The best thing about him, though, is the fact that he's instilled so much confidence in me. I've grown so much because of him. Rainbow Ridge Wines is headquartered at 700 East Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, Calif., 92262, ( 760 ) 327-WINE. Locally, you can purchase the Alicante Bouschet at The Gourmet Grape, 3530 N. Halsted; ( 773 ) 388-0942. I'm at westelm406@yahoo.com .GLBT Technology & Business Series IBM and Windy City Media Group present a year-long series of profiles of leaders in the GLBT business and non-profit world. Please nominate businesses or individuals to be profiled by sending a short description, contact info, and your info to: editor@windycitytimes.com . Take advantage of IBM's expertise in helping to uncover new revenue opportunities and reveal competitive advantages for your business; contact Sarah Siegel, Program Director of GLBT Sales, at ssiegel@us.ibm.com . IBM: The Technology Leader for the GLBT community, is proud to sponsor the GLBT Technology Leadership Campaign.


This article shared 6563 times since Wed Dec 31, 2003
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