Nicholas Cole Cellars preps to close

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A Walla Walla winery is winding down the year with preparations for closure.

Operators of Nicholas Cole Cellars say the downtown tasting room will likely still be running into January as the library of wines is sold.

The tasting room has been open by appointment only, said General Manager Jeanie Inglis-Chowanietz.

The closure of the winery was announced a little more than two weeks ago on Nicholas Cole's website by owner and winemaker Mike Neuffer.

Neuffer has been in Seattle since last summer, when his former wife and the mother of his two children died after a seven-year battle with cancer. In the months since he's been caring for his children, Nicholas and Michele Cole, for whom the winery was named, Neuffer has been re-evaluating responsibilities.

"In choosing to refocus my energies on raising my children, I am placing an indefinite hiatus on winemaking and future vintages of Nicholas Cole & GraEagle wines," he wrote through the website. "I will miss walking the vineyard, sampling grapes, the excitement of harvest, long exhausting days of crush and even the tedium of barrel management and bottling. Most of all, I will miss the great friends, loyal customers and the many fantastic people I have met and worked with in an industry I truly love. Than you for all of your support."

Nicholas Cole Cellars debuted here in 2001 with a 376-case production of a Bourdeaux-style blend. Neuffer sold his initial facility and 42-acre vineyard to Corliss Estates owner Michael Corliss before opening his remodeled tasting room in the wedge-shaped building at the five-way intersection of Palouse, Main and Boyer streets in 2008, according to reports.

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Coffee Connection Caf's owners are taking a winter break.

Today was the last day to dine at the downtown restaurant and cyber cafe, 57 E. Main St., for the next month. Owners Greg and Laurie Clayton continue the tradition of their own winter holiday with a roughly monthlong vacation. The restaurant will reopen Feb. 1.

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A little pocket change has added up to a big donation for area charities.

Community Bank's recent Change for Charity Drive raised more than $11,800, which will be distributed in the communities where the Joseph, Ore.,-based bank has branches.

Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 20 the bank collected loose change from its customers and community members for local charities. Community Bank matched 50 cents for every dollar to add to the donations. An extra $1,000 was added for charities to the banking region that collected the most money. The winning area was the East Region, which includes La Grande, Baker City, Union, Elgin, Wallowa, Enterprise and Joseph. The Walla Walla and Milton-Freewater branches are part of the West Region, which also includes Hermiston, Heppner, Pendleton and Clarkston.

Employees of the branches got to select which charities received the funds. Total donations to charities in Umatilla, Walla Walla, Clarkston and Morrow counties was $4,132. The Walla Walla branch will contribute $2,427 to the United Way of Walla Walla.

That amount includes both the contributions from customers and community residents as well as Community Bank's matching funds. In Milton-Freewater, $371 will be donated to the City Light and Power Assistance Program.

Donations for the Eastern Region totaled more than $7,600. That money will go to charities in Baker, Union and Wallowa counties.

Strictly Business is a local business column. Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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