May 7, 2008

Rusty Red is a robust wine with a nose for charity, education and lacrosse

Rusty Red, a new wine developed by a lacrosse-loving Cornell alumnus who is donating all profits to charity, will have a robust educational nose.

The wine, developed by Joe Lizzio '88, will be marketed with input from Cornell students who developed marketing plans for a contest, April 13, in Warren Hall.

Their creative concepts included a refer-a-friend plan (which won first prize), contacting restaurants owned by Cornell alumni, introducing the wine at an annual golf outing for alumni lacrosse players and serving the wine at a formal dinner party during Cornell's Homecoming.

The contest was part of Cornell lecturer Debra Perosio's Marketing Plan Development course in the Department of Applied Economics and Management (AEM), home to Cornell's Undergraduate Business Program.

A former managing director at Citigroup, Lizzio retired a year ago April from Wall Street and went to Italy to work at the Stefano Berti Vineyards and Winery. The winery, which Lizzio now owns, will make Rusty Red. Rather than compete with other wineries, Lizzio decided to create the Rusty Red Foundation. Donations and profits from the wine will endow foundation scholarships for underprivileged children and fund community athletic projects in needy neighborhoods. Lizzio will cover all costs of wine production, importing, delivery and administrative costs and also will match the first donated $300,000. His short-term goal is to raise a $1 million endowment and then allocate 10 percent of the funds each year to the community projects.

The foundation's advisory board includes Wall Street financiers as well as educators and lacrosse players. While at Cornell in the 1980s, Lizzio went to two NCAA championships, leading the Cornell team as tri-captain in his senior year. The veteran players later joked that they were no longer the "Big Red" but the "Rusty Red," the origin of the name of Lizzio's new wine.

"It's been a lot of fun," says Tiffany Chiou '09 about developing Rusty Red's marketing plan. "I think it's really great because as AEMers, because this is the one class where you work in a group environment, so it's different. You get to really use your creative juices." Chiou, with Marlies Wabeke '09, Nicole Morson '11 and Kimberly Liang '09, developed the idea of referring a friend: When the wine is purchased by someone referred by a friend, Rusty Red would donate 25 percent of the purchase plus profits to the foundation.

The winning student team for the best display and pitch included Brian Kreefer '09, Jason Davis '09, Lauren Billings '11 and Laura Chen '10.

Nina Zhang '09 is a writer intern at the Cornell Chronicle.