Andrew Waterhouse, Jeff O'Neill, Walt Klenz

Vote With Your Wine Glass

An Evening with Jeff O'Neill

When a consumer walks down the grocery store wine aisle, their eyes are simultaneously bombarded with a multitude of colors and pictures on labels, with each label representing one of the many brands trying to reach the consumer. Competition abounds, so brands attempt to grab consumers’ attention quickly. There is one wine company that stands out. It’s not because of fancy embossed labels or contorted glass bottles; rather, O’Neill Vintners and Distillers stands out because of its commitment to sustainability.

The founder and CEO Of O’Neill Vintners and Distillers, Jeff O’Neill, was recently honored as the Walt Klenz Wine Business Speaker at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science where he presented the lecture “Sustainable Sourcing and Scaling in the Wine Industry.” In his lecture, O’Neill stressed the importance of sustainability to appeal to consumers’ values and protect the only planet we have.

O’Neill Vintners and Distillers is the tenth-largest winery in the United States and a certified B Corporation, which means that O’Neill’s decision to prioritize sustainability enacts change at quite a large scale. This scale helps the company connect with even more consumers who value sustainability and want to drink wine that reflects their values.

O’Neill mentioned “the consumer has shifted” and wants sustainability and transparency, so for companies to thrive, they must “follow the consumer.” He believes newer wine drinkers, such as those in Gen Z, are echoing these values as they age into drinking and appreciating wine. In essence, sustainability is here to stay.

Despite already being a certified B Corporation, O’Neill’s company is still pushing the envelope of sustainability. They continue to add to their initiatives and innovation. According to O’Neill, for the sake of the planet, they “can’t afford not to do it.”

O’Neill’s goal is to connect with consumers through sustainability, acknowledging that consumers “vote with their wallets” to effect change and demonstrate their values. At the same time, he understands that price is a factor, so his company works to produce sustainable, accessible wines at scale. And, of course, the wine needs to be delicious to the consumer.

So, the next time you stroll through the wine aisle, consider voting with your wallet and your wine glass by grabbing a bottle (or two!) of one of O’Neill’s many sustainable wines.

To view the video recording of the event, visit the Walt Klenz webpage.


Kendal Koorenny is a current master’s student in the viticulture and enology program at UC Davis. She adores food, wine, and science and writing about it all! When she is not in class or working, you can find Kendal reading a book, crafting a new cocktail recipe, or spending time with her kitten.

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