Have Your Wine and Eat It Too
THE HEALTHFUL REVOLUTION BEHIND WINE RAYZYNS
written by LINLEY MOBLEY | photography courtesy of ADOBE STOCK; ANDREW CATES
THREE YEARS AGO, you would have found Andrew Cates in a suit and tie, walking the streets of San Francisco, Calif., as a trader at a hedge fund. But now? Now you’ll find him in his vineyard in Napa, plucking wine grapes from the vine and dreaming with his dad about the many ways they can use the unharvested fruit to benefit the health of others through their up-and coming business, The Wine RayZyn Company.
While the switch from managing hedge funds to harvesting grapes may seem like a jump to some, for Cates, he’s just gone back to his roots.
HARVESTING AN IDEA
Cates graduated from Marist High School in Brookhaven, where he was a starter on the football team. He earned a football scholarship to Rice University, where he triple-majored in economics, business management and political science. After graduating college, he worked his way through several finance jobs in Charlotte, N.C. and New York City, N.Y. as well as San Francisco.
Although his previous profession could make him seem like a city boy, Cates has never been a stranger to getting his hands dirty — after all, farming comes naturally for his family, which has been organic farming in Georgia since the 1960s and wine making in Napa for a decade. So with the desire to follow in his parents’ footsteps and get a little dirt under his fingernails, he bought Segassia Vineyard in Napa in 2012, a family vineyard that has been producing award winning, highly sought-after wines since conception.
“Segassia Vineyard is a small production, but produces very high-end wine,” Cates said. “I can’t even afford to drink the stuff, but it’s really, really good.”
It was after Cates’ first harvest at Segassia Vineyard, as he and his parents were sitting on the porch snacking on leftover wine grapes, that a groundbreaking idea came to them.
“Everyone knows that a glass of red wine is good for you. My father, a cardiologist, has been prescribing it to his patients for decades,” Cates said. “But that night, my dad started talking about how much better for you it would be if you could eat your wine instead of drink it.”
To let you in on their thought process, it may help to have all the facts. First of all, it takes about 115 wine grapes to make one glass of wine, which contains roughly 4 milligrams of antioxidants per 100 grams of wine. When compared to other antioxidant-rich foods, that’s pretty good. However, if you were able to eat those 115 wine grapes, including the skin and the grape seed, you’d end up consuming more than 10 times the antioxidants. By concentrating the antioxidants in their natural form, you get all the health benefits of wine (plus some) minus the alcohol.
So why don’t we all have a bag of wine grapes in our refrigerator? Well, one of the problems is that wine grapes are basically unobtainable, unless you have access to a vineyard and are able to pick them off the vine. In addition, a wine grape seed in its raw form is so hard, you’d probably chip a tooth if you tried biting through it.
“During a harvest, anywhere from three to five percent of wine grapes are left on the vine because they’ve already started the natural process of dehydration,” Cates said. “While this fruit is often overlooked for wine production, it’s still perfectly good to eat and happens to be a natural superfood. So after that night on the porch, my dad started scientifically researching ways we could take those unharvested grapes and make them available to others.”
With his dad’s help, they spent the next two years working with food scientists to come up with a process for preserving the wine grape and all of its nutrients as well as making the wine grape seed palatable to humans.
“We were able to find a process that dries the wine grape in a way that allows the seed to be caramelized and toasted in its own sugars, maintaining an intact food matrix,” Cates said. “This way, all of the nutrients are concentrated, the fruit is crunchy and the seed’s consistency is very nut-like.”
With process patents filed, the family quickly began building The Wine RayZyn Co. and were able to launch their first product, the CabernayZyn, at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco last January.
While The Wine RayZyn Co. does use unharvested grapes from vineyards throughout Napa Valley, they also purchase unharvested grapes from other vineyards in California, too, giving more farmers another market for their crop. This one-of-a-kind snack comes in packages of CabernayZyns, MerlayZyns or – my personal favorite and also dubbed by Cates as “nature’s gummy bear” – ChardonayZyns.
“Not only is this product good for you,” Cates said, “but it’s good for the environment and it’s good for the community.”
RAYZYN TO THE TOP
Since the company’s launch, they’ve been featured in multiple articles and were one of 10 budding businesses invited to the 2016 Global Sustainability Summit in August. One of the things Cates is most proud of is the medical community’s interest in their product.
“We were able to get the CabernayZyns in front of the same team at [University of California] Davis that discovered dark chocolate is good for you,” Cates said.
After the team learned all about the health benefits stemming from the CabernayZyn, they decided to go straight to clinical trials on humans and a study on the effects that CabernayZyns have on vascular function in postmenopausal women. “This kind of thing just doesn’t happen,” Cates said.
“For the study to go straight to trials on humans is so big. We’re so grateful and excited about [it].”
Speaking of big, The Wine RayZyn Co. currently has mass distribution in the West and are working their way East. Atlanta residents can purchase RayZyns at the Buford Highway Farmers Market or from the RayZyn website. It’s significant progress, considering only two years have passed since Cates felt passionate enough to leave his career in finance to work full time on the family business.
“To me, it just made sense to make that transition,” Cates said. ”I know that this is what I’m supposed to be doing, and I’m so much happier now.”
In addition to working for The Wine RayZyn Co., he leads a more rewarding life at his home in Napa, where he spends most of his time working outside in the vineyard or in his 40-by-45 foot vegetable garden.
“It’s been my goal since 2014 to not ever buy a vegetable,” Cates said. “I grow all of my own vegetables organically — farm to table.”
If he’s not picking, planting or pruning veggies, you can find him tending to his 12 worm farms and multiple beehives.
“I gain energy from that kind of work,” Cates said. “There’s nothing better than being outside and getting your hands dirty and then being able to enjoy what you made and feel the accomplishment of knowing that the old adage is true: ‘You reap what you sow.’”
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