(Photo: Reuters / Chip East)
The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks will no doubt usher in more marketing gimmicks to commemorate the historic event. But a New England business has found itself in hot water after producing a marketing idea in the form of 9/11 memorial bottles of wine.
Well-known chefs, lawmakers, and religious leaders are firing back at the Lieb Family Cellars, a winery in New England with 80 acres of vineyards, for issuing a “commemorative” merlot and chardonnay wine to benefit the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
Lieb Family Cellars, of Mattituck, Long Island, marked the price for each bottle at $19.11 each.
Advertisements promoting the wines made with "grapes grown 90 miles from the World Trade Center" have prompted a firestorm of outrage against the winery's public relations campaign.
Critics are popping up at every corner as the news spreads about the wines saying the idea “hits the wrong nerve,” and “it is just in really bad taste.”
“Even those with the best of intentions have found themselves with a public relations problem on their hands if the idea is in bad taste,” writes one business blog. “When trying to acknowledge events that strike an emotional nerve in the hearts and minds of Americans this small business is learning this first hand.”
The two wines were created in honor of the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in America.
However, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain was one of the first critics to publicly announce these wines are “grotesque,” “vomit inducing,” and “disgusting.”
Bourdain went so far as send several tweets out to his half a million followers denouncing the wines in an angry tone.
“As of yesterday, the 'classy,' 'tasteful' 9/11 wine producers were promising 6-10% profits to charity. Disgusting,” he tweeted.
“This 9/11 Wine. Think about it. What tasteless, exploitative [expletive] thinks that's a good idea? Posters on Yahoo apparently,” he again tweeted.
New York City Councilman Peter Vallone started blasting the 9/11 bottles, saying, "What's next? A 9/11 pastrami sandwich?"
Irene Lavelle, whose husband died in the terrorist attacks, said in a statement that the “wine demeans the date.”
Lieb general manager Garry Madden says the vineyard lost many friends on 9/11, and the wine was a way to give something back. The idea of selling the wines to benefit a good cause isn’t a new idea for Lieb.
Mark Lieb is one of the winery’s owners and became involved in the wine business more than 30 years ago. He partnered with a friend in California who had just purchased an 80-acre vineyard.
“The concept for the 9/11 wines emerged at harvest just days after the September 11 disaster and has grown to be a substantial part of our work,” Lieb says in a statement on his website.
“Your money for these wines raises money for charities so we encourage you to spread the word and share these guilt-free indulgences with your family and friends.”
Lieb Cellars have at least one ally. Sept. 11 memorial board member Monica Iken says "the effort will help sustain the memorial for the future."
Keith Malcomson, a Christian author, says it is a very clear fact that the word "wine" is widely used in the Bible for an alcoholic drink, which produces drunkenness. "It is constantly condemned and warned against," he said.
So, it makes sense that the 9/11 wine bottles are putting "a bad taste in people's mouths."
He said to turn a blind eye and to ignore actions that seduce without taking action to object to it is disobedience to the revealed will of God.
The bottom line, he said, is that many people today think that if they stop drinking wine before they get intoxicated or drunks, they have the full backing and support of God and of the Bible.
The moral to this story is that "wine and drink created even for a good cause is not a good idea for anyone."
"Even a moderate amount of alcohol produces a range of negative short-term effects on the body...,” he said referring to several studies. “We all know that alcohol is a very dangerous drug which must be handled with extreme care. Sad to say many people deliberately overstep even this basic worldly wisdom.”
Lieb cellars says they will make donations from the sales of the 9/11 wines to honor and remember the victims of the terror attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and near Shanksville, Penn.
“Having lost friends and colleagues in the tragic events of September 11, 2001, we at Lieb Cellars feel strongly that it is everyone’s responsibility to support the 9/11 memorial,” a statement from Lieb said. “We have found a way to give back to the greater New York business community.”
But, critics say there are other ways to make money for memorials and steer clear of actions like this that will assure businesses do not find themselves in hot water.
They say businesses can make a donation to a good cause based on general sales.
“Many small businesses produce limited edition wines to benefit causes like the African hunger crisis and Habitat for Humanity,” said a business blog. “But, even those causes don’t hit home like the 9/11 tragedy, especially for a winery so close to New York City.”
Memorials all across the country will be held on Sept. 11 as the date marks the 10th anniversary of the terrorists' attacks that claimed the lives of 2,985 people.