Dawn’s Dream Winery:

Making Dreams Come True for Others

By: Nan McCreary

For as long as she can remember, winery owner Dawn Galante has had a passion for lending a hand to non-profit organizations, especially those dedicated to helping women and children.  So when she opened her boutique winery in Carmel, California, it was only natural that she would focus not just on producing excellent wines but also on creating a business model that would allow her the opportunity to give back to the community. With these two goals in mind, in 2011, Galante launched Dawn’s Dream Winery, which has not only earned recognition for its wines but has helped hundreds of beneficiaries create dreams of their own.

  As a winery, Dawn’s Dream’s roots can be traced to Galante’s move from Michigan to California. Like many others, she got the “wine bug” exploring Napa and Sonoma.  “Once you land in a wine region, it doesn’t take long,” she said, laughing. 

  In 1999, she met now-husband Jack Galante, owner of Galante Vineyards in the Carmel Valley Hills. With a strong background in finances, she joined Jack’s team as CFO and operations manager, a position she still holds today. “I knew a lot about business but nothing about the wine industry,” she said,” so I took all the job positions with Galante Vineyards to learn it all. I even went on the road to help distribute the wine when Jack was selling.”

  After years of sitting behind a computer looking at spreadsheets, Galante got the urge to expand her horizons. It was Jack who suggested she combine her passion for wine with her passion for giving and start her own wine label. Galante loved the idea.

  “One of the things that has always been a part of my life, even as a young woman, is volunteering,” she said. “Helping others comes naturally. Dawn’s Dream came about because I wanted to incorporate that love into my life. Instead of it being just part of my life, I wanted it to be a way of life, and opening a winery was a perfect opportunity.”

  Putting the pieces of this puzzle together was not easy. “It took me a while to figure out how to do the giving back, which means giving money, product or time. I wanted to become a responsible giver because you can burn out if you don’t have some kind of organized method,” she said.

  The other challenge was how to balance the work of running a business with a focus in the non-profit world — not just the business of Dawn’s Dream but also that of Galante Vineyards.

  For Galante, the solution was to hire a general manager to oversee all aspects of the wineries so she could be free to move around each of them. In 10 years, Galante’s “dream” has evolved — and continues to evolve — but it is no longer a dream. It’s a reality, and a successful one at that. “We did it, and we’re still going at it,” she said proudly.

  In her commitment to helping the community, each year Galante and her team select a non-profit to share a partnership that lasts throughout the year.  This year it’s AIM Youth Mental Health, an organization devoted to the mental health of youth. This partnership is advertised in Galante’s tasting room in Carmel-by-the-Sea with a large chalkboard on the wall that asks visitors to “Dream a Little Dream of Me” and support the non-profit. 

  “This allows our staff to really spend a whole year with eyes on this non-profit, whether we join in on a luncheon to raise money or a walk or whatever the non-profit’s superpower is to bring recognition to the work they’re doing,” Galante said.

  For the non-profit, the benefits are many. Right out of the gate, Dawn’s Dream donates 16 cases of wine for board member retreats or whatever needs the group has. Also, Galante offers her tasting room for meetings and presents a stay in the Galante apartment in Carmel as an auction item for fundraising events.  A highlight of the year is the Guest Bartender Event, where Galante hosts a big party in her tasting room that “stars” the non-profit’s celebrity bartender. The organization chooses the theme, and, as Galante said, the sky’s the limit.

  “It’s always popular,” she said, “because everyone knows about it and knows the bartender always gives generous pours.” Because of Covid-19, she had to cancel the event in 2020, but she is already making plans for the annual event later this year.

  For Galante, the year-long relationship with a non-profit partner adds a new dimension to charitable giving. “With the partnership, it’s a yearlong dance,” she said. “If you only see them one or two months during the year, you don’t get to see what they’re doing the rest of the time. You might miss something. Plus, since it’s interactive, we’re able to spend time brainstorming as we go along. We can look ahead and ask them about their current and future plans and how we can be a part of that. I love being involved this way.”

  In addition to the annual partnership, Dawn’s Dream regularly supports several charities, including Rising International, Voices for Children of Monterey County, Boys and Girls Club and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.  Support comes in many forms: event sponsorship, wine donations and cash contributions based on a portion of proceeds generated by wine sales. In turn, many of these non-profits offer presentations to the winery staff on updates, new research and upcoming events. Galante can then pass that information along to her wine club members. 

  “The more I can have the bullhorn to announce what’s going on, the more work I can do,” she said.

  Another commitment in her philanthropic calendar is to sponsor two families at Christmas, one from Dawn’s Dream Winery and another from Galante Vineyards.  This sponsorship provides a complete Christmas, including trees, gifts and meals for the selected families. “We’ve been doing this for many years,” Galante said. “It’s crazy how much need there is.”

  While Galante is passionate about her work with non-profits, she is equally committed to creating outstanding wines. From the beginning, her goal has been to produce “approachable wines of exceptional quality and elegance.”

  Dawn’s Dream Winery is known for its Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Her current releases include two Chardonnays, four Pinot Noirs (three named after her daughters) and a Pinot-based Rosé, which has received the Carmel Golden Pine Cone Newspaper award for the best Rosé in Monterey County eight years in a row. In presenting the award, the newspaper stated, “This is a huge accolade in a county that grows and produces more Pinot Noir than anywhere else in the state.” Additionally, last year Wine Enthusiast gave over 90-point ratings to all of Dawn’s Dream wines.

  One key to her success, Galante said, is the availability of quality fruit in her region. Galante sources her grapes from the coastal areas of Monterey County, the hills of Carmel Valley and the Santa Lucia Highlands. “We have so many Pinots in this area,” Galante said, “and this gives me an opportunity to show the expression of different clones and different microclimates. How they come together — with their structure and their flavor components — is really a work of art. This is the fun part.”

  To create these wines, Galante works closely with her winemaker, Greg Vita, a fifth-generation Californian who has been a vineyard and winemaking consultant to wineries in the Napa Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey County for the last 17 years. He is also the winemaker at Galante Vineyards. The Galantes and Vita share a philosophy that winemaking starts in the vineyard. They select the finest terroirs and let the grapes naturally express themselves with little human contact and minimal intervention.

  “We’re a small boutique winery, and we really honor our grapes,” Galante said. “We let them do what they’re supposed to do: they sit, they rest and they develop. We hand-pick when they tell us they’re ready. It’s like delivering a baby.”

  While Galante is certainly serious about her wines and her commitment to non-profits, she has a playful side, which she expresses in her wine labels that feature a woman’s silhouette in a bathtub. 

  “My label design idea was developed from an original picture taken of Jack and me many years back on the ranch,” she said. “In this picture, I am sitting in a rustic bathtub that our cattle drank from, and we have our horse Dee there as well. Jack had a poster made using this image that says, ‘Honey, draw me a bath,’ and the bottom of the poster says ‘Red or White?’ I love the idea of sharing a glass of wine while relaxing with friends or in the tub!”

  Just for fun, a replica of the bathtub graces the tasting room and has become a popular spot for customer photo ops.

  As Galante looks to the future, she plans to release two new wines:  a Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia highlands that has undergone malolactic fermentation and a Syrah from Carmel Valley. These will be named for her granddaughters, Eliza Jane and Frances Jane. Galante would also like to produce a Zinfandel and a Riesling and is currently searching for grapes’ availability.

  Her goals remain twofold, just like they did when she started Dawn’s Dream: “I want to continue to reach as many people as I can about the importance of humanity and of giving back while continuing to incorporate the best wine in the portfolio that I can.  I want to innovate, listen and keep the mission of Dawn’s Dream going.”

  While Galante’s winery is small — she produces 3500 cases annually — her dreams remain big. Thanks to Dawn’s Dream Winery, the world is a better place for wine lovers and those less fortunate.

For more information on Dawn’s Dream Winery, visit www.dawnsdreamwinery.com

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