Walla Walla Valley wineries opened their hearts, checkbooks and talent in 2011, contributing an estimated $1.9 million to charitable causes.

Results of a survey by the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance revealed wineries contributed in and outside of the Valley through cash and in-kind donations to nonprofit organizations, charities, educational institutions and other causes. The items included wine, winemaker dinners, tours and special tastings and other merchandise, the wine alliance said.

Donations totaled about $1,912,440. Of that, an estimated $849,215 was dedicated to causes in the local community.

Wine alliance Executive Director Duane Wollmuth said the agency had no way of estimating these kinds of contributions in the past, but has developed a method.

"We have always known that the Valley's wineries do everything they can to support many different causes and that these contributions are sizeable," Wollmuth said in the announcement. "It is important to everyone working in the wine industry, not only in Walla Walla but elsewhere as well, to give back in any way they can."

The Walla Walla Valley is home to 150 winery licenses. Officials, however, believe about 115 to 125 wineries actually operate. Some wineries have multiple licenses. Other licenses are held by retail establishments that don't produce wines. Several licenses also exist for wineries that are no longer in business.

The wine alliance serves as a nonprofit membership organization created to market the Walla Walla American Viticultural Area. It also serves as the foremost resource on local wine for consumers, media and trade. For more details, visit wallawallawine.com.


Several wines made with Walla Walla Valley grapes grabbed gold at the prestigious 2012 San Francisco Wine Competition held earlier this month, according to results posted on the event's official website.

The highest award for wine from the Valley was a double gold, awarded in the Syrah/Shiraz $25-$29.99 category to Basel Cellars for its 2008 Walla Walla Valley Pheasant Run Syrah, priced at $28.

Scores of other Washington wines also medaled among the competition's 5,500 entries from around the world, according to www.winejudging.com.

Richland's Barnard Griffin Winery brought home the highest award for the state, the top sweepstakes award in the pink category, for its 2011 Columbia Valley Rose of Sangiovese that costs $12 a bottle.

Privately-made Walla Walla Valley wines winning gold medals include:

  • Basel Cellars' 2008 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $36, in the Cabernet Sauvignon $35 to $39.99 category.


  • Watermill Winery's 2008 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $35, also won gold in the category.


  • Otis Kenyon Wine's 2008 Walla Walla Valley Merlot, $30, in the Merlot $30-$39.99 category.


  • Zerba Cellars' 2009 Walla Walla Valley Tempranillo, a Spanish varietal priced at $38, won in the Tempranillo category.


  • Skylite Cellars' 2008 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah Soiree, $18, in the All Other Red Varietals up to $19.99 category.

Three Walla Walla Community College student-made College Cellars wines also received medals in their respective varietal and price categories.

Its 2008 Walla Walla Valley Sangiovese, $14, and Columbia Valley Sagemoor Vineyard Syrah, $16, took silver medals. In the All Other Red Varietals up to $19.99 category, College Cellars' 2008 Walla Walla Valley Governor's Red, $14, received a bronze. The wines were produced by students under the direction of the WWCC's enology instructor Tim Donahue.

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