Valley wineries give $1.9M to schools, charitable causes

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Walla Walla Valley wineries opened their hearts, checkbooks and talent in 2011, contributing about $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.

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