By Arielle Dreher
In a way, the family behind the local nonprofit Water from Wine is bringing the first miracle of Jesus turning water into a wine into a modern-day context, leveraging the rich wine-growing potential in the vineyard at Sandpiper Farms with the global need for clean drinking water.
nonprofit’s name, Water from Wine, is the eventual outcome of the
the owner of Sandpiper Farms, came up with the model and idea, merging his work
at the farm with his desire to give back.
grapes on the six-acre vineyard and then has local winemakers make the wine.
sells the wine and donates proceeds to clean water charities working in
communities around the world.
The idea for
Water from Wine, Tucker said, came from his involvement with his church’s
mission in rural Honduras. A member of Hillspring Church in Richland, Tucker
has been to Africa twice and said his trips exposed him to the global need for
“It was very
profound to me,” he said.
been a farmer in the region for decades, starting Sandpiper Farms in 1974, and
he sees Water from Wine as a part of God’s plans for him after being abducted
and tortured by two former employees in 1996.
survived and experienced a spiritual conversion that night. He credits his life
and work today to that purpose.
In 2014, he
was struggling with the vineyard on his property and considering different
options for it, from selling it to tearing it out.
Then he got
“It kind of
just dawned on me that if I did something good with the proceeds from that
vineyard, that I’d take better care of it, and that’s in fact what happened,”
He had never
made wine from the vineyard’s grapes before, and he knew he would need help. He
didn’t have to look much further than his own kin.
Ssenkubuge, the executive director of Water from Wine, is Tucker’s daughter.
With a background in global nonprofit work and a degree in global development,
Ssenkubuge moved back to the Tri-Cities in 2016 after a five-year stint living
abroad and working for several nonprofits.
Wine has a fairly straightforward model. The Sandpiper Farms vineyard is six
acres and its grapes can produce 1,000 cases of wine.
grapes that can be made into cabernet sauvignon and rosé, and soon he plans to
donate the vineyard to the nonprofit, too.
volunteers come to harvest the grapes, and the fruit is sent to different local
enjoy a meal in the aptly-named Cana Lodge at the vineyard for their efforts.
Wine then sells the rosé and the cabernet sauvignon, made by Horse Heaven Hills
Winery, with 100 percent of the proceeds from each bottle sale going to
nonprofits supporting clean water globally.
Wine coordinates and works with a handful of nonprofits whose mission is to
bring communities fresh water globally.
donated more than $300,000 as of May 2019 to various nonprofits, which Tucker
says makes all the work worth it.
favorite thing of this whole job is signing the checks that go to those
nonprofits. It makes me feel like it’s all worthwhile when I can sign a check
and put it in the mail,” he said.
Wine has donated more than $230,000 to date to Seattle-based nonprofit Water1st
International, its biggest partner, although the nonprofit partners with
several nonprofits working in the water sector—mainly ones based on the West
audits the practices of nonprofits Water from Wine donates to to ensure they
are building sustainable water infrastructures in communities that will last.
knowing that they are not just going into communities and building a well or a
water system, and then leaving never to be seen again, but they really invest
their time in these communities and trust the local leadership to be involved,”
Wine sells wine direct-to-consumer only, either online and in its two tasting
rooms — one in Paterson and one in Leavenworth.
grapes only yield two types of wine, Ssenkubuge and Tucker sell other Tri-City
wines, including some white wines, as well as a variety of red wines, in their
Paterson Cellars is a licensed winery, they do not make wine themselves.
Leavenworth tasting room opened last summer — and Ssenkubuge said that business
is going well.
with the way it’s going, but it would be great to just continue seeing more
sales happen there, and the more sales that happen, the more we can give away,”
Leavenworth tasting room has proven to be the busiest, as it is in a more
touristy area with other wineries offering tastings and can attract customers
from both the eastern and western parts of the state.
tasting room, connected to the actual vineyard, offers tastings by appointment.
Wine recently started a wine club that allows people to sign up for a
subscription service to pay a set price and receive three shipments throughout
For as low as
$50, the club memberships have discounts and tasting advantages. Ssenkubuge
said many members give their wine away as gifts, including those who aren’t
the profits from the wines made with the Sandpiper vineyard grapes (the Horse
Heaven Hills cabernet sauvignon and the rosé) are donated to nonprofits, while
Water from Wine sales of other local wines in its stores and wine club packages
help offset operating costs.
Sandpiper Farms has taken on the overhead costs of maintaining the orchard, as
well as paying for wine production but Tucker hopes to shift that model into a
more self-supporting operation in the coming years.
He is looking
for companies or individuals to sponsor a row of his orchard for $3,000, which
is worth the price tag for the outcome.
Each row of
grapes yields about 40 cases of wine, which means the retail sale (and eventual
donation) is valued at about $14,400 per row.
actually leveraging your donation by our efforts, marketing and volunteers and
other donations because I do expect to continue donating overhead and
staffing,” Tucker said.
Wine still is relatively small, due to the vineyard’s size and its current
model. Its wine is not sold in stores; it can only be bought online or in the
Paterson or Leavenworth tasting rooms. It does sell and ship wine through its
website to Washington, Oregon and California.
To volunteer for the harvest or learn more about Water from Wine and tasting times, go to waterfromwine.org.
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