When Josh Laine returned from Iraq in 2007, a wounded and decorated Marine veteran, he had trouble finding a job. So he decided to employ himself — and other soldiers returning from the Middle East. Together with a fellow former Marine, he founded Lavish Laines Winery, a business that initially operated out of an old bus. Why winemaking? Laine wanted to create an opportunity for vets to do manual labor and spend time outdoors, two things he felt could help former servicemembers recover physically and psychologically in the aftermath of war. And being in northern California, a winery seemed apropos. Laine studied the wine industry at nearby Las Positas College and learned the ropes from Bay Area vintners.
As word of his enterprise spread and more returning veterans started coming to Laine for guidance in establishing their post-military careers, he founded the nonprofit Vets & Vines Foundation, which trains veterans in viticulture and helps them find jobs in the industry. In 2009, Lavish Laines became Valor Winery, and now employs veterans in all aspects of its business, from cultivating grapevines to bottling and labeling, then marketing and distributing the finished product.