Wine, food make great pairing for Gran Fondo

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WALLA WALLA — The annual Providence St. Mary Regional Cancer Center Gran Fondo fundraiser took place on Saturday.

Throughout the morning, 500 participants took part in a number of different “great rides” that included horseback, motorcycles, bicycle and good old-fashion feet to ride or walk and raise money for the Cancer Patient Special Needs Fund.

Last year, the Grand Fondo raised $14,000 for goods and services that are not typically covered by health insurance, such as fuel, wigs, phone cards, lodgings and even some medications.

While the majority of the fundraiser rides and walks take place in the morning, it is the last leg of the Grand Fondo on Saturday evening — more of a gastronomical journey — that has raised close to half the funds received.

For Dama Wines owner and winemaker Mary Deby, it isn’t about the money.

“This is about people coming together and trying to participate in a really fun event,” Derby said.

Dama Wines was one of seven wineries that took part in Pairing on Main on Saturday.

The annual event features a group of downtown wineries that team up with local restaurateurs to each provide a modest-sized glass of wine and a sampling of food for 150 participants.

For Derby, it was its 2008 merlot and food provided by the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center.

Pairing on Main started in 2007 as more of an informal group of wineries that wanted to offer specials during Gran Fondo weekend to raise money for the event, chairperson Mardi Hagerman said.

Then in 2009, restaurants and wineries were asked to pair up and sell tickets. The result was a huge success, where almost half the money raised through Gran Fondo was no longer from walking or riding but consuming.

“It took a couple years for the Pairing on Main to really present itself in the whole picture ... I think that it is singularly Walla Walla, I don’t think that it is something that you will find anywhere else,” Hagerman said.

This year, Pairing on Main is expected to raise $6,000, with all of the $40-ticket proceeds going to the special needs fund because the restaurants and wineries will pick up the entire tab for their part.

Derby, who has been participating in the event since 2007, expected to go through at least a $300 case of wine.

The other participating restaurants and wineries included Sapolil Cellars paired with Bistro 15, Otis Kenyon with the Green Spoon, Rotie Cellars with Brasserie Four, Chateau Rollat with Aloha Sushi, and Sinclair Estates Vineyards and Walla Faces both paired with Graze

Derby also noted that this year’s Pairing on Main will be more “poignant” for her, having had a friend die of breast cancer a few days ago.

“Hopefully we can continue. It’s not about the ‘Whys’ or the ‘Ifs.’ It’s the ‘What can I do now?’ And this is what I can do. And it’s not hard for me,” she said.

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