“We give regularly and as often as possible. There’s no reason to wait until the holidays. People need help year-round. And if more companies and people thought like that … the world would be a better place.” —Dennis Murphy
Dennis Murphy is the founder, owner and winemaker of Caprio Cellars, a small winery nestled in the valley south of Walla Walla, Washington. The business began in 2005 when Dennis planted his first vineyard, Eleanor’s—which he named after his grandmother, Eleanor Caprio.
Since its first release in 2010, Caprio Cellars has made a name for itself producing award-winning, 100 percent estate-grown releases. Today, the winery has expanded to three vineyards, with a winemaking style focused on Bordeaux varietal blends.
But it is how Murphy has integrated intentional, focused giving into the business model of Caprio Cellars, supporting his local community and organizations that assist people in need, that has more than earned him a place among Wine Industry Advisor’s Wine’s Most Inspiring People.
Murphy says that he formed his philosophy of giving as a child. “I realized early on in life, if you surround yourself with good people, and anticipate their needs and can help them, that makes life a lot easier. I had a great role model through my mom, and she was and still is, a very generous person. She would always [give] when people needed something. She just knew how to do that. I learned from her.”
Murphy has made generosity and giving to his community not just a cornerstone of his life, but also in how he runs his business, for which he created the trademark Give As You Go™. Through Caprio Cellars, he has supported a range of community and non-profit organizations in Walla Walla—including giving a percentage of his winery’s profits toward charitable donations.
Most recently, Murphy partnered with Tom Maccarone, owner of TMACS restaurant in Walla Walla, to raise money for restaurant workers affected by the pandemic-induced lockdown orders. They worked in conjunction with Blue Mountain Action Council, a local non-profit that helps people in the community struggling with poverty.
“I worked in the restaurant industry understand how important it is to have customers… I think we ended up donating $5,000,” says Murphy. It was the early days of the pandemic and none of us knew what was going to happen. Looking at those dark days, I thought, what can we do to make our little part of the world a little better?”
In addition to Blue Mountain Action Council, Dennis has supported a range of other organizations and causes, including include First Story—a non-profit that helps develop affordable housing and assists people in putting homeownership within reach—and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
Asked what was most important when it comes to giving as part of one’s business, Murphy responds:
“Think about what you stand for. Focus on how you can make a difference in the world. And give to one or two efforts that you believe will make an impact. At the beginning of my giving, I would just give when people asked, but I’ve now formalized my giving… I’m seeing much more of an impact because it’s a more focused approach.”
Murphy adds that having the whole team involved in the business decision to donate time, resources, and funds is critical. “If you’re going to make giving a part of your business, make sure that everyone buys in, not just the owner or management,” he advises. “If your team doesn’t get it, if your stakeholders—whether employees or subcontractors—if they don’t get it, then it doesn’t matter. But when they get it, then they’ll start to give too [and] it’s going to have an impact.”
About Wine’s Most Inspiring People: Each year, Wine Industry Advisor chooses 10 individuals within the wine industry who showcase leadership, innovation, and inspiration. For the first time in 2021, WIA opened up the submission process to the industry at large. With over 100 nominees, the editorial team selected the top 10 individuals who they felt has truly positively impacted the US wine culture over the past year. Read more here.