A Philanthropic Inspiration

Ninety-eight percent of Philbrook’s budget comes from private donations.

“It’s all about what Philbrook brings to the community, says Bill Thomas, the 2014 event co-chair with wife, Susan Thomas. “The work that is being done at Philbrook is the focus of the [Philbrook Wine Experience]…At the end of the day, what we really want are people to participate and celebrate the fact that their investment and involvement has helped to create something really wonderful for the entire region.”

The Philbrook Wine Experience features several events leading up to the first weekend in May, including the April 12 Sip & Shop event and Wine & Dine through the month of April. On Friday, May 2, guests will mingle with some of the country’s top vintners as they sample culinary creations from nearly 30 of the region’s finest restaurants. The Grand Wine Tasting is presented by Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. On Saturday, May 3, the Philbrook Wine Experience Vintner Dinner & Auction brings vintners to the table along with a cream-of-the-crop auction. The weekend welcomes 40 internationally acclaimed wineries to Tulsa, all to benefit Philbrook.

Instead of sending marketing representatives, visiting winemakers and winery principals will talk about the heart and soul that they put into the wine being served. Much like hearing artists discuss their work versus listening to an audio tour in an art museum, this exquisite detail is as appealing to participating vintners as it is to guests.
Vintners relish the chance to speak with consumers directly, and Philbrook Wine Experience offers them the opportunity to be in front of an intimate crowd of aficionados who will appreciate the products and their stories.

Chris Donatiello, owner of C. Donatiello Winery in Healdsburg, Calif., will be participating at Philbrook Wine Experience for the first time this year and is looking forward to taking part in the event that has caused quite a stir on the wine circuit.

His family has a standing relationship with another family that has long supported Philbrook. Through this connection, he has come to understand and appreciate how important Philbrook is to Tulsa.

A University of Oklahoma alumnus, Donatiello adds that he’s always happy to have an excuse to get back to Oklahoma.

“The opportunity for wineries to participate in auctions and tastings are endless. Because of that, wineries get to be very choosy about the events in which they participate. Philbrook takes a different approach than many by limiting the number of winery participants to a small, well-chosen group of important wineries, each of which brings assets to the event,” Donatiello says.

“Access to art, particularly for children, is becoming more important,” the vintner adds. “With schools being so tight on budget dollars, and the continuing cuts in arts programs, Philbrook and their programs give not only children, but students of all ages an opportunity to learn, and we are happy to support that.”

Michael Honig is president of Honig Vineyard & Winery, located in the heart of Napa Valley. The label has presented at Philbrook Wine Experience since the event began. This year his youngest brother, Jonathan Honig, will present at Philbrook for the first time, further strengthening the family’s tie to Philbrook that goes back more than 20 years, when Honig put his family vineyard’s first wines on the market.

“What my family has been thrilled to be able to do is use our bottles and our wine for philanthropic endeavors. We’ve always been very civic-minded and philanthropic, so here we can use our bottles to help generate revenue to help support wonderful museums like Philbrook. It’s a win for everyone,” Honig says.

“When I first got started, there was so much interest and so little representation in Oklahoma by Napa wines. Markets like Oklahoma were being overlooked,” Honig continues. “I thought, ‘Why beat myself up against a wall trying to go to New York when I can go to a market like Tulsa – where people are excited to see me and want to taste my wine – versus trying to compete with everyone else in Manhattan?’”

Honig says the Philbrook Wine Experience has been good for his business over the years. He comes back every year because of the enthusiasm and support the fundraiser’s patrons have shown for his product and work.

“I’d say I’ve established some pretty solid roots [in Tulsa],” says Honig. “In our business, relationships matter, and from my experience, Oklahoma is a place where people want to get to know you. Once they’ve met you and you’ve shown support for them, they’ll support you back.”

Susan and Bill Thomas are chairpersons of the 2014 Philbrook Wine Experience. Photo by Brandon Scott.
Susan and Bill Thomas are chairpersons of the 2014 Philbrook Wine Experience. Photo by Brandon Scott.

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