WOODINVILLE, Wash. – Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is taking a great idea and turning it into a national movement.
O Wines, which launched in 2006, was purchased last year by Washington’s largest wine producer and now is being released nationally.
O Wines was started by Stacy Lill and Kathy Johanson as a way to raise money for scholarships.
“The O Wines – standing for opportunity – was created with the sole intent of funding educational scholarships for low-income, high-potential young women so they could further their education,” said Lill, who now serves as an ambassador for O Wines.
To date, O Wines has raised $125,000 and paid for more than 40 scholarships in the past four years. According to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, most of those scholarship recipients were the first members of their families to attend college.
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates commits to $50,000 this year
Ste. Michelle has committed to contributing a minimum of $50,000 this year to the O Wines Opportunity for Success Scholarship Fund.
Prior to Ste. Michelle purchasing O Wines, production was 11,600 cases of Chardonnay. Under Ste. Michelle’s ownership the past six months, it has grown to 60,000 cases of Chardonnay and 38,000 cases of red wine.
Each scholarship is $20,000, distributed in $5,000 increments over four years. The College Success Foundation in Washington state and Washington, D.C., will handle the scholarship program. The scholarships are available to female high school seniors who are entering a four-year college or university this fall. They must have a minimum 3.2 GPA and have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Students may apply online at oscholarship.org. Deadline is April 1.
Snoqualmie assistant takes over O Wines
Katie Nelson is the winemaker for O Wines. The California native started her winery career when she got a job just after turning 21 in Healdsburg, Calif. After earning a degree from Sonoma State University, she got a job as a lab supervisor at Associated Vintners in the Yakima Valley.
Nelson later worked at Eola Hills Wine Cellars in Oregon’s Willamette Valley then landed a job with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in 1999 as an enologist for Northstar. She served as assistant winemaker at Snoqualmie Vineyards for 10 years before being promoted to head winemaker for O Wines last fall.
Nelson makes O Wines at the Columbia Crest facility in Paterson and also serves as a roving assistant winemaker with other Ste. Michelle Wine Estates brands.
For O Wines, Nelson makes two wines: a 2011 Chardonnay and a 2010 red blend that consists of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The Chardonnay retails for $14, and the red blend is $16. Both wines use grapes from Washington’s Columbia Valley.