By Shawn Raymundo
Last month, San Clemente resident Michael Speakman wanted to show his appreciation to the health care staff at UC Irvine Medical Center for fighting on the front lines of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
To do so, Speakman of Westerly Wines donated a case of wine to the medical workers as a thank you. That generosity quickly snowballed into a widespread effort among fellow Santa Barbara County vintners and wineries to donate more than 500 cases of wine to several medical centers in Southern California.
Speakman explained that one of the recipients from his initial donation took to Facebook to highlight the winery using #westerlywines. From there, he received numerous calls requesting donations, so he began to organize, calling on friends and other wineries to help.
“It happened by pure accident and thought we can keep moving to get wine donated,” Speakman said. “It was absolutely remarkable, people calling me to tell me, ‘Hey, we’re donating cases.’ ”
More than 80 wineries from the Santa Barbara County wine community pitched in to donate close to 600 cases that went to more than 15 hospitals in Southern California, Speakman said.
“It was the most rewarding, enjoyable thing I’ve ever done in my entire life,” he said. “To watch the face of the people when we dropped off wine, how happy they were.”
To aid in the deliveries, Speakman said he recruited a handful of his buddies in San Clemente to haul the cases using vans that U-Haul had donated for the cause. The Staples in Dana Point, he added, also pitched in by donating the hang tags used to display the thank-you notes on the bottles.
Speakman said those thank-you notes included invites to health care workers to the various wineries, which intend to host a special week for the first responders down the road, potentially this fall.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.