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North Salem Native Thinks Outside The Box With Fair Trade Wine

Heather Hellwinkel, fouder of Finch and Vail based in North Salem.
Heather Hellwinkel, fouder of Finch and Vail based in North Salem. Photo Credit: Submitted

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. -- The desire for a simple glass of wine before heading to bed has led to a growing wine business for North Salem resident Heather Hellwinkel.

Hellwinkel, a recent graduate of the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business, got the wine bug while studying abroad in Florence. She was in a language immersion program post undergraduate at Arizona State University. That led to studying the art of wine upon her return to the U.S., taking classes, reading literature, and doing tons of tastings.

And so, when in grad school and enduring long, intense classes, she was presented with a dilemma when craving a glass of wine to enjoy while relaxing before bed. "I always wondered: Do I open a new bottle for only one glass, potentially wasting the rest, or do I just skip that glass of wine I was craving?" she said.

"I often thought, 'If only there was a way for me to enjoy quality wine one glass at a time over the course of one or more weeks.'"

The answer: Cape Vida , her own label made in South Africa and packed in the form of bag-in-box wine (boxed wine). Boxed wines last from four to six weeks after opening, are significantly less expensive than their equivalent glass bottles, and better for the environment, she said.

Still.

The “boxed wine” connotation tends to carry a negative connotation in regard to quality -- another challenge Hellwinkel hopes to change.

Because of her travel experience -- both from Italy and from a grad school opportunity in South Africa -- she has partnered with the Fairhills Project, an organization supported by South African wineries with a focus on community development.

Simply bringing South African boxed wine to the U.S. is not enough however. Having witnessed firsthand the positive impact the wine industry can have on local South African communities, Hellwinkel stressed her desire to ensure Cape Vida does its part.

The two wines -- a Sauvignon Blanc and a Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz. --launched in April, and, according to Hellwinkel, are currently the only Fair Trade International certified boxed wine in the U.S. market. They can be found locally at Brewster Wine and Liquor, Bronxville Wines and Spirits, Depot Wine and Liquors, Goldens Bridge Fine Wines, Vintology, and Wine Zetta to name a few. (Go to www.capevida.com/in-stores/ for a complete list.)

And more plans are in the works, both for new stores and an expansion to the line. In 2017, Hellwinkel hopes to introduce more South African varieties.

Her company, Finch and Vail, the umbrella company Cape Vida is under, also represents an artisanal, small production, cider brand from California called Mission-Trail Cider.

As far and wide as Hellwinkel has traveled, she said she's utilized a number of skills and tools she learned while at North Salem High School. "When I look back on my experiences and think about what inspired me to launch my own business, the North Salem O.P.T.I.O.N.S. program comes to mind," she said. "Through that program, I had the opportunity to study how products were sourced internationally, imported to the U.S., and ultimately marketed to the final customer. Today I am doing exactly the same thing with my wines."

And there's another link to Hellwinkel's past build into her business: she named the company after the intersection where she caught the school bus as a kid, Finch Road and Vail Lane.

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