I knew Charles Rominger only slightly. He died in November of last year. He was 52. He lived near Davis, California, with his wife and two kids and, though he’d been a farmer all his life, he recently branched out to include grape growing as part of his diversified farming operations. He formed a winery, Rominger West, with his partner, Mark West. The official opening was the day after Charlie’s memorial service.

During his life, Charlie, a fifth generation farmer in Yolo County, employed sustainable farming practices, worked on preserving open space and supported local farmers. He served on the Yolo County Farm Bureau and won several awards for his holistic farm management and habitat restoration. The earth needs protection and Charlie offered to stand guard. He once said, \"The more we get business processes to mimic nature, the more benefits we find.\" He preferred to manage his land, \"doing things in harmony rather than in conflict with nature.\"

Charles even once saved a drowning child. For that action, he was awarded the California Attorney General’s Certificate of Valor. His death from cancer is heartbreaking. It’s baffling that someone so young, who’s done so much for his community, who’s still raising a family and whose new business venture looks bright, should leave us. But looking back now, as Charlie’s noble actions are given their proper due, perhaps someone in Davis, or Ventura, will feel a change happen deep in their soul, and life will continue to become better for all of us.

The thing I neglected to mention about Charlie is that he was my cousin. I was never able to tell him what I thought about his wines, or tell him how proud I was, or how I hoped that I could write something to promote his winery.

Prior to Charlie’s passing, I ordered a case from his new winery, anxious to taste his wines. My order arrived days after his death. There, in the solitude of my kitchen, I opened a bottle of his Rominger Ranch Red, a Bordeaux blend. I examined the color, swirled the wine in my glass and took in a deep breath, letting the intoxicating aromas fill my nose; just like I’ve done a thousand times before. I raised my glass, saying aloud, “Here’s to you, Charlie,” as tears came to my eyes.

Therefore, let’s celebrate the powerful joy of giving back. Let us turn to those around us, look them in the eye and say, “Here’s to you.” May we continue to spread an attitude of graciousness to everyone around us, those we know, and those we know only slightly.