Leslie Rudd was an entrepreneur, philanthropist and family man. He was the founder of The Rudd Group, a privately owned portfolio of luxury businesses. Among them was an esteemed collection of food and wine brands: Rudd Oakville Estate, Edge Hill Estate, Oakville Grocery, Distillery No. 209, PRESS Restaurant, Vintage Wine Estates, Covenant Wines and Rudd Farms. He was also the owner of Standard Beverage Corporation located in Wichita, Kansas, where Leslie was born.
Equally committed to and passionate about his philanthropic efforts, Leslie established The Rudd Foundation in 1998 as part of his long-held goal of changing how food and wine was viewed in America. In 2003, he served as the primary benefactor of The Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the Culinary Institute of America’s St. Helena Campus, which offers two nationally recognized certification programs and a comprehensive portfolio of wine study classes. To further assist in wine education, The Foundation partnered with The Court of Master Sommeliers to develop the annually held Rudd Master’s Roundtable, a prestigious scholarship training program for wine professionals preparing for the Master Sommelier Exam. In 2005, he created The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, to fund research and education in the fight against obesity and weight discrimination. The Center has received widespread recognition for its cutting edge research in the field. In 2015 The Center relocated to The University of Connecticut where it continues to produce outstanding work and expand its role in the field of Food Policy.
In 2009, The Rudd Foundation dedicated the St. Helena Performing Arts Center, which now serves the Choral and Drama Departments of St. Helena High School and the community at large. In 2015, Leslie established the Leslie Rudd Investment Company Tuition Reimbursement Program to provide financial support for all employees of the Rudd Group of companies and the children of long term employees who were pursuing their college degree. In 2017, Leslie launched the Rudd Scholarship Program, funding educational opportunities for Pell-eligible, underrepresented and first generation Kansans seeking to complete a four year college education in the state of Kansas (see his letter to Rudd Scholars here). The Rudd Foundation continues to support projects dedicated to furthering educational opportunities, health initiatives and Jewish causes.