Platinum Awards factor into scholarships for future growers, winemakers

By on April 6, 2022
Samantha Mallery, enologist for Owen Roe and a winery technology student at Yakima Valley College, stands in front of YVC’s new satellite tasting room on its Yakima campus with nine of the Platinum Award-winning wines crafted by students at the Yakima Valley Vintners teaching winery. (Photo by Brad Smith /

GRANDVIEW, Wash. — For decades, there has been an ongoing debate among winemakers as to the true value of the awards given to wines that have been submitted for judging. 

One organization here in the great Northwest has dedicated its mission to turning those medals into promising careers by furthering the education of students in viticulture and enology programs in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.

In 1976, the Yakima Enological Society was formed just as the modern era of Washington wine industry was beginning to grow, and seven years before the Yakima Valley American Viticultural Area was established by the federal government. The stated goal of Y.E.S. was “to support and provide education, interest in viticulture, enology and the appreciation of wine.” 

In 2003, Y.E.S. began a scholarship program laser-focused on assisting viticulture and enology students, and in the past two decades, the group has awarded future grape growers and winemakers nearly $115,000 in funding.

The source of that funding? Y.E.S. uses proceeds from its learning experience activities with the largest contributor being the annual Platinum Dinner that celebrates “The Best of the Best” — wines that earned top honors at Great Northwest Wine magazine’s Platinum Awards

Proceeds are presented to colleges and universities as scholarship dollars for their winemaking programs, turning Platinum Awards into promising careers.

Students at Yakima Valley College have received more than $46,000 worth of scholarships from this program since 2007. In an area dominated by agriculture, these funds are a lifeline for students completing their college degrees. The funds are typically disbursed to the schools in December or January.

“The funding fills a scholarship dead zone, reaching students in the moment mid-year when funds are needed,” says Trent Ball, chair of Yakima Valley College’s Agriculture Department. “This assists students who are already at least one quarter into their process, as well as second-year students as they strive toward the finish line.” 

More than 20 students in Ball’s program have received Y.E.S. scholarships during the past 14 years. The list includes Samantha Mallery, a 2019 recipient of a Y.E.S. scholarship who is on track to finish her associate’s degree this spring. She has already landed a job as enologist for famed Owen Roe in the Yakima Valley.

“Participating in and completing the programs at YVC has completely transformed my professional life,” Mallery says. “I was fortunate enough to go from being a local bartender and server to a happy harvest intern. From being an intern, I was offered a position as an enologist. This scholarship allowed me to be able to work toward the completion of this program.”

Now that she is nearing completion of her associate degree, she plans to progress into YVC’s new Bachelor of Applied Science in Agriculture degree program starting in fall 2022.

Platinum Dinner assists students at 6 NW schools

Canadian-born winemaker George-Anne Robertson of Yellowhawk Resort and Sparkling House is a graduate of Walla Walla Community College who earned a scholarship via the Yakima Enological Society’s Platinum Dinner. (Richard Duval Images)

Roy Lewis, immediate past-President of the Yakima Enological Society, says the Platinum Dinner offers not only the opportunity to raise scholarship funds but also gives society members the chance to “meet the recipients, hear about their successes and provide networking opportunities with the winemakers showcasing their wines at the Platinum dinner.” 

By invitation, Platinum Award-winning wineries provide wines for the annual dinner, and those acclaimed winemakers interact with attendees throughout the event.

Scholarship recipients are invited to the dinner to share their experiences. The silent and live auctions that evening provide for the scholarship funds of the not-for-profit Yakima Enological Society — completing the circle from Platinum Awards to promising careers.

Scholarship program beneficiaries include Yakima Valley College, Walla Walla Community College, Washington State University Tri-Cities, Okanagan College in British Columbia, Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., and Central Washington University in Ellensburg.

This year, the Y.E.S. Platinum XX Dinner is scheduled for Saturday, May 14 at Yakima Country Club. It begins with the winemakers reception/greeting where Platinum-winning wines are served with hors d’oeuvres, followed by dinner featuring five courses paired with 2021 Platinum wines. A seat for the dinner is $165.

Registration information is at

Ben Stuart earned a scholarship from the Yakima Enological Society and applied it to his education at Walla Walla Community College’s Institute of Viticulture and Enolgoy. Immediately after graduation, he took over the winemaking at award-winning Burnt Bridge Cellars in downtown Vancouver, Wash. (Richard Duval Images)

Walla Walla Community College enology/viticulture students who earned a Yakima Enological Society scholarship:

2019-20: Elizabeth Law, owner, Lacewing Cellars, Walla Walla, Wash.
2018-19: Alexander Mesick, assistant vineyard manager, Vitis Terra Vineyards, Amity, Ore.
2018-19: George-Anne Robertson, winemaker, Yellowhawk Sparkling House, Walla Walla, Wash.
2017-18: Tyler Morrison, assistant winemaker, L’Ecole N° 41, Walla Walla, Wash.
2016-17: Christina Rivero, enologist, Waterbrook Winery, Walla Walla, Wash.
2015-16: Chris Wright, assistant winemaker, Thurston Wolfe, Prosser, Wash.
2014-15: Kate Brehm, owner/winemaker, Tillie Wines, Snohomish, Wash.
2014-15: Ben Stuart, winemaker, Burnt Bridge Cellars, Vancouver, Wash.
2013-14: Joel Sokoloff, vineyard manager, Soter Vineyards, Carlton, Ore.

Yakima Valley College students who earned a Yakima Enological Society scholarship:

2007-09: Carolina Warwick, co-owner/co-winemaker, WIT Cellars, Prosser, Wash.
2010-13: Braden Mortensen, assistant winemaker, Two Mountain Winery, Zillah, Wash.
2010-13: José Licano, vineyard technician, Zirkle Fruit, Co., Prosser, Wash.; Teo Petropoulos, vineyard manager, Noel Vineyard
2012-14: Jacqueline Beard, quality/product development manager, Bale Breaker Brewing Co., Moxee, Wash.
2012-2014: Jensena Newhouse, former tasting room manager, Treveri Cellars
2013-2015: Enrique Reyna, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Emilse Osorio, former distiller, Wildridge Vineyard & Winery
Lura Jansen, assistant tasting room manager, Milbrandt Vineyards
Ryan Anderson, Four Feathers Wine Estates
Sam Mosman, vineyard manager, Lonesome Spring Ranch
Luis Rivera, QI tech, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Josh Aznaran, assistant winemaker, Wahluke Wine Co.
Amie Thornton, wine tracker, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Artemio Ramirez, vineyard technician, Inland Desert Nursery
Samantha Mallery, enologist, Owen Roe, Wapato, Wash.
Paul Nunez, branch manager, Semios, Richland, Wash.
Ryan Wyatt, assistant winemaker, Precept Wine
Ryan Sexton, Coventry Vale
Leyla Gonzalez, Mercer Estates
Jeremey Clarke, enologist, Wahluke Wine Co.

Umpqua Community College students within the Southern Oregon Wine Institute who earned a Yakima Enological Society scholarship:
2016-2017: Shalena Harris
2017-2018: Andrew Glover, Kevin Jeffries
2018-2019: Bressley Aleman
2019-2020: Andrea Campos, Amelie Lacasse, Keith Osmack, Thorin Skesick

Okanagan College Foundation, British Columbia

Jasmine L. Black, Yakima Enological Society Award, Winter 2016
Madison M. Whale, Yakima Enological Society Award, Winter 2016
Pamela D. Saunders, Yakima Enological Society Award, Fall 2016
Jonathan F. Furkalo, Yakima Enological Society Award, Fall 2016
Kerian L. Bevan, Yakima Enological Society Award, Fall 2017
Jennara B. Field, Yakima Enological Society Award, Fall 2017
Marilyn Kelly, Yakima Enological Society Award, Fall 2018
Chandra M. Paynter, Yakima Enological Society Award, Fall 2018
Lauren Crupi, Yakima Enological Society Award, Spring 2020
Trevor Amos, Yakima Enological Society Award, Spring 2020
Terence R. Tkatchuk, Yakima Enological Society Award, Fall 2020
Emily Ziff, Yakima Enological Society Award, Spring 2021
Chantal Sayde, Yakima Enological Society Award, Fall 2021

About Brad Smith

Brad Smith is a certified sommelier, professional wine judge and personal chef who worked 12 years at Yakima Valley College teaching winery viticulture and enology programs. As a marketing consultant, Brad has worked with numerous Northwest wineries and businesses with projects from developing culinary programs to digital marketing. He can be reached at

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