Meet Brady and Christen Raanes, owners of c(3) wines, an endeavor as delicious as it is philanthropic.
A summer release party helped introduce a local couple’s wines to the Greater Hattiesburg area. Brady and Christen Raanes introduced (c)3 wines, a collection of four wines that serve a double purpose – not only are they enjoyable to drink, but funds raised through their sales support four non-profits.
“The release party at Branch was a good opportunity to introduce the wines,” said Raanes, a Hattiesburg businessman. The wines were also served during a recent ADP After Hours held at the Greater Pinebelt Community Foundation, where Brady serves on the board, and this summer’s Laughs for Life preparty, for which Raanes’ coworker, Kent Oliver, serves as director. Those proceeds support the Multiple Myeloma Foundation, one of (c)3’s charities.
And while the wines have just made their way to Mississippi, the whole concept began well before the wine thing.
In 2010, the Raanes began an adoption process which took them to Ghana, Africa, where they lived in a hotel for three months until the process was finalized.
Sitting around, they had a lot of time to think and by the end of the 90 days decided they wanted to create some type of charity.
“There were enough charities that existed in the world; we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel,” said Brady.
“Three months is a long time to sit in a hotel room and have all of these ideas spinning,” added Christen, “so we really talked a lot about a charity and like he said, there are so many out there we thought maybe we could do something that was a little bit different.”
What came to mind was supporting the charities that were already out there doing good work, not trying not to overlap them.
The couple brainstormed a lot, Brady admitting he had a ton of bad ideas.
One day while sitting at Crescent City, Christen, who serves as CEO of the nonprofit, broached the subject of doing something charitable with wines, something they both liked and enjoyed.
Not knowing much about wine or living in a zip code that would support their idea, the couple was sure there was something out there for them.
After much Googling and research, they came upon a company in the Napa Valley called The Wine Foundry, which acts as the middleman between existing wine companies that want to add a different varietal, so they source grapes from other vineyards.
“The Foundry makes that easy for other vineyards as well as those of us who own zero land and don’t grow any grapes at all, but would like to purchase,” Christen said.
The couple began by sampling wines from the different vineyards and deciding which flavor profiles they really liked.
Christen explained that the process involved taking a bottle of approximately 95 percent cabernet and adding a little Muhlbach and a little Petit Verdoh and Cabernet Franc, all of which added a little bit of complexity to the wine.
“That was the fun part,” she said, “sitting with the wine maker. He’d mix a sample and let us taste, informing us at the same time that it was going to taste different once it had aged because it would soften.”
The Raanes bought their first batch of wine, from two different vineyards, in 2012, and blended that. They also bought every year since up to 2016.
But just because they had wine, didn’t mean they were ready. Because of the aging process required, their wines sat in barrels in Napa for two years.
Christen explained that with the first batch, which was released in 2015, the grapes were harvested, crushed and then barrel aged for two years. “You can do it for a lot less or a lot longer than that, but under heavy influence from our wine maker, who knew a whole lot more than we did, he recommended two years. When he thought the time was right, we bottled and released it.”
Brady added they had laid out a fairly large chunk of money to buy the barrels from multiple years just to have it sit in the Napa Valley for two years aging and waiting.
Their four wines – 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015 White Blend, and 2016 Sauvignon Blanc – are strictly their “babies,” just like the two boys – Manny (from Ghana) and Beni (from the Congo), they adopted and made part of their family.
The name they chose for their wines is (c)3. Christen explained the thought process behind the name. “Because this was so much about the non profits that we were working with and giving back to, we wanted it to reflect that,” she said, “Since 501(c)3 is the tax code for non profits, we took the (c)3 from that.”
While the wines are available online, Mississippi is one of 33 states and the District of Columbia where there is not direct-to-consumer sales. Other states include Alabama, Georgia, Utah, Montana, South Dakota, and a lot of states in the northeast.
For wines brought into the state there is a 27 percent tax, according to Raanes. “So, on top of the wholesale price is a 27 percent tax and then anything the retailer adds on top of that to make a profit,” Brady explained. “It’s pretty ridiculous.”
“We jumped through a lot of hoops and just got it through the Mississippi ABC this summer,” he said. “We worked for a solid year to get it here.”
The Raanes explained that most people work with a distributor, who also takes some off the top, but Jamie (Farris-Lincoln Package) helped them understand the process so they could do it themselves to avoid that extra charge.
“Jamie has been great,” said Brady. “We’ve worked together and played baseball together, so he was really helpful in making it happen.”
(c)3 is currently on sale at Lincoln Road Package store and Brady has been talking with other Hub City wine store owners.
“We’ve talked to them and hopefully it will work out,” Brady said. “I’ve also talked with Dusty (Frierson) at Branch, where the release party was held, about putting it on their menu as well.”
He said that Martha Allen, director of Extra Table, has also talked to some places in the Jackson area about carrying the wines, which would benefit Extra Table.
As far as Mississippi sales, funds from anything sold through one of Robert St. John’s entities or through Allen, will go to Extra Table. Profits from sales through other Hub City Sales will benefit the Pinebelt Community Foundation.
When a bottle is purchased, the buyer can select whichever of the charities they want to support. At that time, the Raanes receive a notification and the money is allocated to the charity with checks being sent out quarterly or annually.
The annual commitment to each charity changes each year and so far, the Raanes aren’t sure which charities the wine sales will support next year.
“So far, it’s still a fairly small dollar figure,” said Brady, “somewhere around $5,000 or $6,000, but I think it’s beginning to grow and snowball, so we’re really excited about that. Things just take time.”
The wines will remain the same until they run out of inventory.
“The 2015 white blend, we bought the least of, and we have less than two cases left of it,” Christen said.
The holidays are usually a good time for (c)3 wine sales, with people being thoughtful and giving gifts, according to Christen. “It’s the gift that gives back, and that is good,” she said.
Brady said hopefully they will have their wines in other Hub City stores by year’s end.
Growing up Raanes
These days the Raanes boys are growing and deeply involved in school and other things.
Manny is 15, 6-feet tall and plays basketball at Purvis High School. He had just turned 7 when they adopted him. His parents have both been amazed at how he’s adjusted. “He has just a little bit of an accent,” Brady said. “Other than that he’s just a Mississippi guy with a weird accent, but is doing great.”
Beni, who came from the Congo, is now 11 and was 6 when he was adopted. “He’s sharp as a tack,” his proud dad says.
While Manny spoke a little bit of English when he was adopted, Beni spoke no English.
Christen homeschooledl the boys for two and three years, respectively, to get them caught up. “They adjusted well and it was a very easy transition for us, which is not always the case,” she said. “After we adopted Manny and it went so smoothly, we said, ‘Let’s do this again.’”
Brady has two adopted brothers and they had friends who had adopted.
“That kind or removed some of the scariness,” he said.
“We were young newlyweds, and didn’t think going through that process was for us, but God changed our hearts over the years and it’s been great for us.”
Beth Bunch is managing editor of Signature and The PineBeltNews. She’s not partial to wine, but would definitely give these a try.