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Sebastopol's Ron Rubin of Ron Rubin Winery

About a year ago, Ron Rubin of Sebastopol’s Ron Rubin Winery started a program to give any North Coast winery a free ZOLL AED PLUS (automated external defibrillator) to help save lives.

Saving a life should not have a price tag. However, an automated external defibrillator (AED), a life-saving device, costs $1,700.

Last fall, owner Ron Rubin of Sebastopol’s Ron Rubin Winery, began a program to donate ZOLL AED PLUS units to local wineries. Surely, there must be a catch or some hidden cost. Surprisingly, there is not.

So far 141 wineries in Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties have taken advantage of this AED program.

Rubin started the “Trained For Saving Lives Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Program,” where he covers the cost of one AED PLUS unit to a qualifying winery. An AED is a portable electronic device that delivers an electric shock to the heart through the chest. This shock can save someone from sudden cardiac arrest because it can correct an irregular heartbeat.

Rubin encourages all North Coast wineries to become part of the program. “We try and keep things pretty simple, if you’re a winery then you qualify,” he said. So far Rubin has committed to purchasing 450 AEDs and to find a winery for each.

“You can’t place a value on a person’s life and Mr. Rubin’s program has the potential to save many,” said Anthony Thomas, assistant winemaker at Spring Mountain Vineyard. Thomas heads the winery’s safety program. “The team at Spring Mountain Vineyard are grateful for his contribution to our own safety program and for his efforts to facilitate life-saving CPR/AED and First-Aid education and training to California wineries,” he added.

Rubin said he hopes that 309 more wineries step up to receive a free AED. Many of the participating wineries are in St. Helena. Wineries from big to small have participated including Francis Ford Coppola, Markham Vineyards, Clos Du Val Winery, Benessere Vineyards, Smith-Madrone Winery and Wheeler Farms. “We wouldn’t want to turn anyone down that wants to save a life,” Rubin explains.

Rubin a philanthropist

Rubin has an extensive history as a philanthropist. He is a major donor to the Wine Spectator Learning Center’s education complex at Sonoma State University. Serving as the current president of the board of Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute, he also advises on the university’s curriculum. Rubin also supports The Maynard Amerine Wine Label and Menu Collection at UC Davis.

Ron Rubin Winery has donated more than $35,000 to the nonprofit organization Food For Thought, which provides food to people living with critical illnesses. Additionally, Ron Rubin Winery sponsors other organizations such as The School Garden Network of Sonoma County, the American Cancer Society’s Sebastopol Relay for Life and the Chalk Hill Artist Residency.

This time it was different. “I realized with my own experience that my life was saved by an AED,” said Rubin when reflecting how he almost lost his life in 2009. After this experience he said it was always very important for his staff, both at his winery and at his other company, Republic of Tea, to have Red Cross training and be prepared with an AED.

Rubin said heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, and the survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest is very low. “For every one minute that goes by, your survival ability drops by 10 percent,” he said.

Before starting the program, Rubin said he mistakenly believed that most wineries already had an AED. He wanted to make sure personnel in other wineries were safe and that their tourists were safe. As Rubin did some research he found that some of the biggest wineries such as Kendall-Jackson and Gallo already had AEDs but many others, especially small wineries, did not.

Rubin then decided he wanted to give all wineries, no matter the size, a chance to have an AED. He contacted the Red Cross and paired up with a medical company, ZOLL. Rubin decided he would cover the $1,700 cost as long as the wineries trained their staff on how to use it. Today, Rubin said he is very proud that there are now about 1,000 people trained in CPR and AED because of his program who are now prepared to save a life.

“Social responsibility is what we are all about,” Rubin said. Each year he chooses a new goal for how he can make a difference in his local area.

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Editor’s Note: Charlotte Smith will be a sophomore at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in the fall. She was born and raised in St. Helena.