Cindy Oswalt, President of Epicurean Wines in Seattle, was already sensitive to the needs of people with breast cancer. Her mom was diagnosed 13 years ago. She also knows other survivors and she has a friend dealing with the disease right now. So, this is something that is near and dear to her heart.
Timing is everything!
Kathi Kankis, an independent marketing consultant, started working with Epicurean more than three years ago. And another organization that Kathi works with is… you guessed it… Albie Aware! “I could see that Cindy and Amanda (Executive Director of Albie Aware) were of like minds,” says Kathi. “They are both dedicated professionals and caring people. It was a natural fit to bring them together.”
A partnership was born
The result of this relationship is the Virtual Australian Wine Tasting Tour happening on Saturday, August 1, at 6:00 p.m. to raise funds for Albie Aware’s mission of helping Sacramento area residents facing or fighting breast cancer.
Amanda Nelson is very thankful to Cindy and Epicurean for conducting this event. “Because of Covid-19, the
fundraisers we depend on were cancelled,” she says. “But cancer does not stop for viruses, and the need is greater than ever. We are so grateful to Cindy and Kathi for helping us out at an extremely critical time.”
The Epicurean Story
Ben Hammerschlag started Epicurean Wines in 1999 with the goal of bringing premium Australian wines to the U.S. market. “Ben was incredibly talented at seeking out and finding the best of the best wines that Australia has to offer,” says Cindy. “He grew a great portfolio by cultivating personal relationships with talented winemakers.”
Cindy started as a part-time bookkeeper in 2004. Within a few short years, she became the office manager, and two years later she took control of all operations. Ben and Cindy manned the office, with a team of brokers throughout the U.S.
In 2017, Ben suddenly and tragically passed away. After the grief subsided, Ben’s parents asked Cindy to stay on as acting president. “I was so concerned whether we would be able to keep the company going, said Cindy.” She asked Brian Klassen, who she describes as dynamic and intelligent, to leave his role as a regional wine broker to become national sales manager. “Eventually I became the leading shareholder,” she says. “Brian also holds a percentage, as does Ben’s family who are silent partners.”
A business built on relationships
“In 2008, the economy collapsed, and we lost a lot of wineries,” Cindy explains. “But because of the relationships Ben and I had built with the wineries, I was able to bring many of them back on board. Today, we have expanded our portfolio to include several wineries that weren’t part of the original collection.”
Cindy attributes Epicurean’s success on building strong relationships based on honesty and business savvy. “We have partnered with wonderful winemakers who deeply care about their wine and produce amazing wines, vintage after vintage. All the wines in our portfolio are award winners with high ratings. I never have to worry about the quality of the wines. Our wineries are family owned and the wine is always exceptional.”
Women in Wine
As a woman-owned business, Epicurean is an integral part of a trend. Women are making their mark on the wine industry, especially in Australia where almost 40 percent of winemakers are women. That is almost double the number in California. “I am proud to be a part of this growing group of talented women in the business of wine,” says Cindy.
Cindy was raised in Richland, Washington. She has an older sister and three younger brothers. She moved to Seattle in 2001 with her two young daughters. Both are adults now. Stephanie lives in Hawaii and Hailey in Spokane. So what does a successful businesswoman do to relax? She and her entire family, parents included, are huge fans of all things Disney. They visit the Magic Kingdom as often as they can.
Cindy’s mom, Janet Oswalt, was in her mid-50s when a mammogram detected a tumor. The day after Christmas, stage 2B cancer was confirmed with a biopsy. The next day she had a mastectomy. She credits
her diligent young oncologist for saving her life. Two of Cindy’s aunts and a cousin also had the disease. Her mom insisted on driving herself to chemo and radiation treatments and the worst part for her was losing her hair. Three years later, new cancer was found in her intestine. After more surgery, she is now monitored regularly and has been cancer-free ever since.
Cindy adds, “I have always been a supporter of breast cancer research, but through Kathi’s relationship with Albie Aware, I learned that the need goes beyond research and that there is an immediate need for support and funding now.”
Not only will the proceeds of this current event go to Albie Aware, Epicurean is also generously donating a percentage of sales from one of their premium wines, The Gaffer Shiraz by Mr. Riggs. A pink cap and a neck hanger on each bottle will let lovers of good wine know that each purchase supports the fight against breast cancer.