So silent and sneaky, you'll never see these ninjas coming.
Except for the ones in the hot dog costumes. And the total picture of stealth in the inflated white unicorn getup with a bright pink mane.
But other ninjas have moves and masks in black, as they carry baskets heaped with wine and goodies to an unsuspecting front porch and ring the bell and RUN!
It hasn't been so much fun since, well, before COVID-19 and childhood.
“I seriously thought, I'm going to invite my 50 friends that live here,” said Cynthia Wheeler, the New Castle woman who started the Facebook group on May 20. “There's no way we'll hit 1,000 members.”
She drastically underestimated the appeal of being a Colorado Wine Ninja.
In less than two months, the private Facebook group had a membership of 37,700 women from across the state. Joining was by invitation and for women 21-and-older only, and the group was hidden on Facebook for much of that time. And new ninjas still found it.
I'm just shocked,” Wheeler said.
She would like to say that she thought of the whole wine and ninja thing herself, but she actually spotted posts about a group of wine ninjas in Canada and thought, “man, we could really use that in the states right now.”
She was so sick of divisive Facebook posts about COVID-19, anti-masks, pro-masks, vaccine this or that and protests. “Everything seemed so negative,” she said.
She told a friend about the Alberta (Canada) Wine Ninjas, with members who create baskets that include a bottle of wine along with all kinds of other things — cookies, wine glasses, socks, candles, chocolate — and surreptitiously deliver them to the doorsteps of other members or friends or complete strangers.
“That would be so awesome to have here. Why don't you start it!” Wheeler's friend said.
So she did, and now that friend is one of the admins Wheeler recruited to help her manage the group.
“It has gotten bigger and bigger and bigger and there are so many happy people,” Wheeler said.
She loves reading the posts written by ninjas either getting ready to deliver baskets or by those who have received a basket.
There was the post from a woman whose mom died and she hadn't mentioned it yet to anyone, but the next morning, there was a basket on her porch, Wheeler said.
There have been posts from women who needed encouragement, thought they were alone, and then the doorbell rang or there was a knock at the door. “It's a total miracle and blessing, I feel,” Wheeler said.
And while the wine is wonderful, the real reason Wheeler thinks women are attracted to the group is because it is about giving.
“You don't have to drink to be in the group,” she said. “It's about the giving and the fact that you were thought of.”
In a society that seems so selfish or divided and labeled — moms at work, moms at home, white, Black, thin, curvy — sometimes it takes wine ninjas to bring out the best and remind us we do have things in common and we love to give, Wheeler said.
“I knew there were women out there who thought like I did, I just didn't realize how many,” she said.
Wheeler has been surprised to watch how Colorado Wine Ninjas have gone beyond giving to individuals in the group to give to fire departments and police and sheriff's departments, including the Mesa County Sheriff's Office, which put up a “thank you” post after it was “ninja'd” with a basket packed with snacks, minus alcohol.
She's also noticed the spin-off groups that have formed. There's the Colorado Kool-Aid Ninjas, Colorado Food Ninjas, Colorado Mommy Ninjas, Colorado “Flower” Ninjas (“I catch the undertone of that one,” Wheeler said. “You know we live in Colorado.”), Colorado Furr Ninjas and Colorado Brew Buds and probably more groups that are hidden.
“I'm just excited to see where it's going to take us,” said Wheeler, who has had seek more help from more friends to be admins for the group, especially as she will be headed back to school soon for her job as a kindergarten para-professional.
“I used to get up every morning and have a cup of coffee and watch the news,” she said. Now she gets up and turns on her laptop.
Several weeks ago, Colorado Wine Ninjas updated to a trademarked new logo designed by Wheeler's 18-year-old daughter — “I even paid her for it,” she said — and launched a merchandise line that includes T-shirts, koozies and key chains.
“Honestly, it's not about making money, but it's a perk,” said Wheeler, who can't wait to see the logo “popping up all over.”
Wheeler and the other admins also are planning to have an online wine ninja fest in September around the time when Colorado Mountain Winefest would have been.
Wheeler and some of her friends will likely post video to the group's page of themselves talking about Colorado wines, what foods they like to pair with certain wines and so on. Other wine ninjas will be able to post or go live with video, too.
Along with looking forward to that, Wheeler is curious what wine ninjas across the state will break out for the holidays later this year. “We've got some super creative, amazing women on this page,” she said.
The baskets she saw that were themed out for the Fourth of July were “amazing,” so Halloween and Christmas are sure to be incredible, she said.
“I've received a couple myself,” Wheeler said of getting a basket from a Colorado Wine Ninja. It really is “the best.”