Walla Walla Valley wine industry helps raise $55K for food bank

By on December 23, 2019
Members of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and Walla Walla Valley business leaders present a check for $55,716.82 to the Blue Mountain Action Council Food Bank on Dec. 17, 2019. They are, from left to right, sponsors Jason and Chad Wiley (Grocery Outlet), Jeff Mathias (food bank director), committee members Kyndra Teal (Corliss Estates), Breanna Maiuri (Dunham Cellars), Kylie Sheckler (Winery Fulfillment Services), Ashley Mahan (Baker Boyer Bank), Shelby Pryor (Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance), Trevor Dorland (Cayuse Vineyards), Robert Hansen (executive director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance), Philippe Michel (Metis) and Doug Case (Columbia REA).
(Photo courtesy of Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance)

WALLA WALLA, Wash. – It began in 2011 as a modest $2,000 fundraiser spearheaded by the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, yet this year’s Barrel Full of Money reached impressive new heights when the Blue Mountain Action Council Food Bank received a check for $55,716.82.

During the nine years since its inception by the late Duane Wollmuth, the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance has helped raise more than $220,000 via the Barrel Full of Money campaign.

“Generous support from the wine community, local businesses and individuals has propelled the Barrel Full of Money campaign to a 40% growth over last year,” Jeff Mathias, director of the BMAC Food Bank, stated in a news release. “The money raised in this effort will provide over 250,000 meals for our neighbors in need.”

More than 70 wineries, the Blue Mountain Action Council and Walla Walla Valley businesses and sponsor organizations took part in the effort that culminated in the steering committee’s presentation at the food bank on Thursday, Dec. 19. They include Alaska Airlines, Baker Boyer Bank, Big House Brewpub, Columbia REA, Dunham Cellars, Elkhorn Media Group, Grocery Outlet, Hayden Homes, Maple Counter Café, the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center, Rogue Lobster, Seguin Moreau, The Thief Fine Wine & Beer, TMACS, Valdemar Estates, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance member wineries.

“This effort truly exemplifies the collaborative heart of the people throughout our community. We look forward to the continued collaboration and success of Barrel Full of Money and BMAC for years to come,” said Shelby Pryor, committee chair for Barrel Full of Money and marketing assistant for the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance.

Barrel Full of Money came with Wollmuth’s first year

Gilles Nicault, left, winemaker for Long Shadows Vintners, shares a moment at his Frenchtown Road tasting room in 2013 with the late Duane Wollmuth. (Richard Duval Images)

Barrel Full of Money is a project Wollmuth helped spark during his first year as executive director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance. The former cell phone industry executive launched Three Rivers Winery west of Walla Walla in 1999. Wollmuth died in 2016 when he suffered a heart attack at his home. He was 60.

The BMAC Food Bank now distributes about 928,000 pounds of food through pantries in Walla Walla County each year. According to FeedingAmerica.org, a food bank can turn a $1 cash donation into as many as 10 meals. That means the 2019 Barrel Full of Money program could lead to more than 550,000 meals in southeastern Washington.

The two-month Barrel Full of Money campaign began with a tasting at The Thief Fine Wine & Beer and included a raffle with grand prizes of two unrestricted roundtrip tickets by Alaska Airlines and a one-night stay and dining at the Marcus Whitman Hotel.

Donation canisters — full-sized wine barrels — were featured at Walla Walla Valley wineries and businesses, and tasting fee donations came via wineries. Dunham Cellars staged an auction and wine reception. Grocery Outlet provided shoppers the ability to “round up” or add a donation to their purchase. And there also were cash donations from Walla Walla Valley businesses and residents.

Next year, Barrel Full of Money will celebrate its 10th campaign. Fundraising officially kicks off in October, includes the Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend on Dec. 4-6, and concludes with the Auction & Wine Reception on Thursday, Dec. 10 at Dunham Cellars.

The Blue Mountain Action Council is a community action partnership agency providing a wide array of services to help people meet their basic essential needs. The BMAC food bank is the regional distribution center for the five food pantries in Walla Walla County as well as the pantries in Columbia, Asotin and Garfield counties. More information about the BMAC Food Bank and its programs also is available by calling 509-529-4980.

The Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance is a nonprofit wine industry membership organization whose primary mission is the marketing of the Walla Walla Valley’s American Viticultural Area. The wine alliance functions as the leading informational resource for consumers, media and trade interested in learning more about the valley’s wine industry.

About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the President and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for a decade. He is a frequent wine judge at international wine competitions throughout North America and orchestrates 10 Northwest competitions each year.

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