Twisted Oak Winery owner Jeff Stai set off a chain reaction of generosity in the Murphys wine industry last week when he announced he would give free tasting to anyone who brings in a can of food or a children’s toy to his tasting room during the holiday season.

Stai encouraged both members of the community and visitors from afar to drop by one of his two tasting rooms with a non-perishable food (at least one can per person) item to receive complimentary tasting.

“… please bring all you can,” Stai wrote in a release, adding “pun not intended.”

All food items and toys will be donated to Santa’s Express, which provides food to hundreds of county residents for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“I think this is one of the most creative ideas I’ve heard all season,” said Resource Connection Food Bank Director Jeanne Hayward. “I think it’s exciting and what a wonderful way to get people to engage in giving during the holidays.”

Hayward said any winery owner who wants to participate should let her know, and she’ll have volunteers deliver a bright red food donation box to place in the tasting room.

As of Tuesday, food boxes were running low, and businesses were encouraged to provide their own boxes.

The donations will be collected before Christmas by Santa’s Express volunteers and the food and toys will be distributed to the less fortunate in the community.

Serena Rudd, tasting room associate for Twisted Oak, said the winery has done this in the past, but it was never highly publicized.

Once area winery owners learned of Stai’s idea, many wanted to join him in giving back to the community.

The Calaveras Winegrape Alliance sent out an email asking all its members to participate in the food and toy drive.

“I don’t think there is a single tasting room in the county that wouldn’t want to participate,” said Matt Hatcher, CWA president. “There are an awful lot of people in this county who need help. I think everybody in the wine industry wants to give back this time of year. This is a good way to help the needy in our community.”

Hatcher said once the Santa’s Express volunteers bring a box by his tasting room, he and his brother would gladly purchase enough food to begin filling it up.

“We’re all willing to help in whatever way we can during the holidays,” he said.

Joining Twisted Oak in the food and toy drive are Hovey, Hatcher, La Folia, Chatom and Four Winds.

Jan Hovey, who owns Hovey Winery with her husband, Chuck, couldn’t agree more with Hatcher’s sentiments. The food bank has a special place in her heart, since she was involved in obtaining the funding to build its new facility in San Andreas.

“There are a lot of families who are really hurting and it’s a no-brainier to help the food bank out,” she said. “We are really blessed to be a part of the business community,” she said. “Giving back is really the gift.”

To find out where the participating tasting rooms are located, pick up a Calaveras Winegrape Alliance brochure or call its office at 728-9467. To learn more about how to donate to the Resource Connection Food Bank, call 754-1257 or visit

 Contact Joel Metzger at