Faythe Stone-Brocka, the unstoppable force behind Cru9 Wines, is here with a mission and a message of female empowerment that women everywhere should be inspired by. Recent studies by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (or NCADV) shows that one in every three women is a victim of some kind of physical or sexual abuse by a partner, and with with the Me Too Movement in full swing, we hear stories of women being exposed to sexual harassment and assault on a daily basis. What makes matters worse is women are not the only victims in all this, the children and families of these women experience their own special trauma.
So how does the wine industry tie into this national crisis? The answer is simple: it’s Faythe.
Faythe found a way to use her passion to help women and families in need of stability and support by using her branding to promote awareness in addition to donating a percentage of her wine club profits to programs she truly believes in. She believes that it’s not only her responsibility, but her purpose to give back to those in need. That’s how she came to support two incredibly important programs: Ruby’s Place in Hayward, CA, and House of Hope in Waterloo, IA, two shelters and transitional housing centers that are designed to help, and, more importantly, to heal victims of domestic abuse, and human trafficking. “I feel confident about how they get it done,” Faythe says. “Most often, it is a long painful process for survivors to heal and go out on their own. You can’t just give them a bed for a few nights and some money and think that will fix it.”
Faythe is the ninth child from a family in Iowa, which is where the name Cru9 comes from. “It’s a cheeky twist of the french word ‘cru’ sometimes translated as ‘growth.’ I come from a family of nine kids, me being the ninth… More so on a personal level, it’s about the growth of #9 – me.” Through and through a farmer’s daughter, her first business, which she started at only 27, was a landscaping business with her own tree farm. Her love of horticulture (and wine) led her to an interest in growing vitis vinifera, the only problem was her favorite varietals simply don’t grow in Iowa. One day, she met someone in the Wine Industry in California who gave Faythe a subtle push in the right direction: “Just do this wine business in California then,” they said. “You can do it.” And after may trips back and forth from Iowa to California, after struggling to get land, financing, and help, Faythe finally prevailed. “I was getting told NO over and over,” she says. “Tell me ‘no’ and it’s a surefire way to light a fire under my backend and I’ll obsessively find a way.” And with that Cru9 was born.
In addition to being an impressive entrepreneur, she now has a family of her own and is a mother of three. She says her sons’ influence on her life is one of the reasons she felt the urge to facilitate change and to help others. She talks about trying to be a good mother while also a woman in the workforce: how sometimes it’s difficult and you make mistakes, how you can get “knocked off your high horse,” and how all those challenges make you a more empathetic person. She also talks about how lucky she was to have loving parents who provided her with three square meals a day, an education, and most importantly: safety. “For a child missing those components, the playing field is not level,” she says. “And then throw abuse into the mix, it is a disastrous and deadly situation.” She hopes that her convictions and Cru9’s brand will not only make a difference in the lives of these children, but also show as an example to her own sons on how to “pay it forward.”
Faythe is a truly inspiring individual, who speaks with passion and conviction. She is bold, honest, and unapologetic, which shows both in her personal accomplishments and her winemaking.
Q: “Where does your passion for wine come from?”
A: “There’s a connectivity about my favorite beverage. It’s like this liquid liaison for people, business and personal. It sparks conversation, softens the mood or heightens it, musters your courage, brings people together; it’s what you open when you’ve had a $#!+ day, a best day ever, and the average days in between. It’s a chameleon; changing with terroir, and time, and the food pairing, if any. That inspires passion.”
Q: “Is there any kind of philosophy behind your winemaking techniques?”
A: “The fruit sets the stage. Ever try to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? Good luck! I want the wines to represent the time and place they come from, but high quality crop is step one. And it has to be what I will love to drink, translation: I don’t do fads.”
Faythe currently makes three delicious wines wines, each with their own unique and meaningful name: “As Ever,” a creamy, dreamy Russian River Chardonnay, “See You In Your Dreams,” their beautiful and elegant Russian River Pinot Noir, and “Stop Talking” the rich and sultry Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
Q: “Where do the names of your wines come from?”
A: “They come from my personal life and what I believe will resonate with people…what this company advocates for, most often mixed with my sarcasm and irreverence. In sum, it has to be in my style, provoke thought and emotion, and bring change for good. They are words, words are powerful and they can mean different things to different people.”
Being a woman in this world is hard enough, but being a woman in the Wine Industry is even harder, but Faythe takes it in stride. From her labels, to her techniques, to her mission, she radiates courage, caring, and “She-Power.” After hearing her story and her message, there were two very important questions that needed to be asked:
Q: “Is there anything you’d like to say to the aspiring Winemakers out there? To the women fighting to find their place in this industry?”
A: “I’m uncomfortable giving advice but I’ll share some lessons I’ve learned and try to put into practice daily: Fear is expensive. Pride is deadly. Focus on being better, not on getting even or your past. Success is the best revenge, just be careful how you measure success. The measure of your bank account, possessions, and fame are not your true worth to this world; the quantity of people better off because of your deeds is. The only assumption you should make is not knowing someone’s whole story, and henceforth replace judgement with kindness.”
And of course:
Q: “Anything you’d like to say to the survivors; to the women and children that you’re helping?”
A: “I love you and I believe in you. Your past does not have to define your future. Keep going.”
We live in an ever changing world, and some people are using their resources, influence, and platforms to change it for the better. Faythe, Cru9 Wines, House of Hope, and Ruby’s Place are just a few out of many. Hopefully one day we’ll live in a world where domestic violence is a thing of the past, where children don’t need to be afraid, where we can all just sit in the warm sun, drink a nice glass of Chardonnay together, and be at peace. Until then, be proud that programs like these, that people like Faythe are fighting everyday to make that dream a reality.
And if you find that you’re struggling with a terrible situation yourself, if you find yourself faced with mental illness, harassment, or abuse, please remember that there are people out there want to help you, resources that can help lift you up, you just gotta have Faith.
If you would like to help Faythe on her mission to make this world a better place, please visit her website Cru9Wine.com. You can also visit House of Hope and Ruby’s Place for more information on how to donate and get involved.