WALLA WALLA, Wash. — Despite going up against the historic U.S. Open Golf Championship in the Puget Sound as well as Father’s Day weekend, Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine announced record ticket sales and attendance for its third annual event.
The Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance said more than 540 people purchased tickets to the June 18-20 event, which celebrated Merlot. That figure reflects a sales increase of more than 10 percent from last year’s Syrah-themed Celebrate, and organizers said the number of guests was up 20 percent.
“Celebrate is becoming a ‘must attend’ event for wine lovers around the world,” Duane Wollmuth, executive director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, stated in a news release. “We will continue to raise the bar every year to keep attracting people to the valley.”
Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine began in 2013, and the inaugural event brought in more than 300 wine lovers who learned more about Cabernet Sauvignon and how it is produced in the Walla Walla Valley while meeting some of the region’s famous winemakers and chefs.
Next year, the spotlight variety for 2016 Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine will return to Cabernet Sauvignon. It will be staged June 16-18.
This year’s toasting of Merlot began at Dunham Cellars with the Vintage Pour, which featured library wines from some of the valley’s longtime winemakers, such as Waterbrook Winery 1987 Merlot, Walla Walla Vintners 1997 Spring Valley Vineyard Merlot, Leonetti Cellar 1999 Merlot and L’Ecole No. 41 1999 Merlot.
That was followed by seminars, tastings and winemaker dinners built around Merlot. Winemakers represented California, Italy and France, and Master Sommelier Fred Dame and wine critic Stephen Tanzer gave public presentations.
Wollmuth said 75 percent of the attendees for this year’s Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine — The World of Merlot traveled more than 50 miles to reach Walla Walla. About 25 percent came from outside Washington state or Canada.
“The Walla Walla Valley made an extremely positive impact on our visitors,” Wollmuth said. “One-hundred percent of survey respondents said they felt either very or extremely safe during the Celebrate weekend. We find this to be reflective of the quality of life and security we feel in the Walla Walla Valley every single day.”
Organizers surveyed patrons, and 90 percent of those respondents rated the event “very good” or “excellent,” adding they would recommend the event to a friend. Wineries, sponsors and the hospitality industry also applauded the event, and Wollmuth said everyone who returned the survey wanted Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine to continue.
Media attendance for Merlot was off this year. The Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance played host to 18 representatives from around the United States and Canada, down from the 23 attendees in 2014.
The Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance is a nonprofit membership organization focused on marketing the Walla Walla Valley American Viticultural Area. The alliance serves as a key resource of information for consumers, media and trade.