PULLMAN – During this year’s “A Celebration of Washington Wines” dinner and auction held Saturday, Jan. 24, glasses were hoisted to toast the bid that put net proceeds raised over the event’s eight years over the $1 million-dollar mark. Proceeds support WSU’s Viticulture and Enology Program and have helped establish an endowed chair to head the program.

This year’s gala at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville, Wash., brought in a total of more than $180,000 in auction proceeds, ticket sales, sponsorships and donations — more than enough to surpass the $1 million-dollar net proceeds milestone.

Attendance was somewhat lower than in recent years but the generosity of those who attended was deeply appreciated, according to Dan Bernardo, dean of the WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences.

“Washington’s wine industry remains a bright spot in the state’s economy, and we deeply appreciate the generosity of those who attended in supporting the WSU program that provides the research and training that supports the industry,” Bernardo said. “In the current economic climate, the showing of support is even more critical, and even more appreciated.”

Bernardo also extended special thanks to Ted Baseler, the president and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and a Cougar alumnus, for once again holding the gala dinner and auction at the winery.

“Each year our auction demonstrates the strong support in the wine community for what we want to achieve at WSU,” said Baseler. “This is the road to building a world-class program.”

At the start of this year’s festivities, Baseler announced that in 2008 Ste. Michelle Wine Estates had undertaken a special effort to raise additional funds to benefit the Viticulture and Enology Program through restaurant sales of its wines. The effort contributed $40,000 to the auction proceeds. A total of 123 restaurants statewide participated in the point-of-sale promotion that dedicated a portion of wine sales to the program.

WSU and the Washington wine industry have a long history together. Washington’s wine industry grew out of research done at WSU more than a half century ago that determined that premium European wine grape varietals could be successfully grown in the state.

Washington is second only to California in domestic wine production, and its wines are internationally known for their premium quality. An analysis pegged the wine industry’s total economic benefit to the state at $3 billion annually. Today, there are nearly 600 wineries in the state and more than 30,000 acres in wine grape production.

For more information about the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program is available at http://wine.wsu.edu/ . More information about the auction can be found at www.wineauction.wsu.edu/.