Building life’s bridges through wine – Project Zin

Courtesy Charlie Palmer Group
Courtesy Charlie Palmer Group

Food and wine charities are not new.  Professionals in the hospitality industry who participate in these events are by nature, generous people, and so are their patrons.  But when Dry Creek Valley vintner Clay Mauritson asked busy restaurateur, hotelier and Michelin star Chef Charlie Palmer to help him put together Project Zin – a charity to raise funds and awareness for Down syndrome which affects Mauritson’s son – Chef Palmer was standing by.

Clay and Charlie’s friendship goes back over a decade, when Clay’s family began helping Palmer develop vineyards in Dry Creek Valley.  In 2005, Palmer asked Clay to join him on what would be a dream French food and wine experience – the kind that only a famous, Michelin star chef could arrange.  They explored the best restaurants in Paris and toured the great vineyards of Burgundy.

On the way back, Palmer asked Clay if he knew why he was invited on this trip, to which Clay responded. “I was taught to never shoot a gift horse in the mouth.”  All kidding aside, Palmer told him simply that it was because his family “had helped him fulfill one of his life long dreams, to grow his own Pinot Noir, [and would he] be interested in helping him finish that equation: to make his own wine.”  From that moment, Clay not only helped Palmer continue his dream, but became a great friend and business partner in Charlie Clay wines.

So when Mauritson’s son was diagnosed with Down syndrome last September, according to Clay, “Palmer said that when I was ready, he would be there to help me in any way he could.”  Earlier this year, Clay collaborated with Palmer on Project Zin, a charity to support the Sonoma County Down Syndrome Support Group.

Mauritson hopes to make Project Zin an annual event, together with Palmer, on this life-long journey bound by wine.


The inaugural Project Zin event takes place October 29th, 2011 at the Hotel Healdsburg on the Square.  Visit for more information.

The Mauritson family has been farming in Dry Creek Valley for 140 years and is a member of Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP).