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Wine Country Weekend raises $1M for charities

AMONG THE 100-PLUS ATTENDEES at the $1 million donation distribution were these check guardians, from left, George Hamel, Jr. of Hamel Family Winery; Joe Anderson, Benovia Winery; Tom Klein, Rodney Strong Vineyards; Katie Jackson, Jackson Family Wines; (behind Katie) Sonoma Mayor Tom Rouse; Honore Comfort, Sonoma County Vintners; Squire Fridell, GlenLyon Vineyards & Winery; Dan Goldfield (in sunglasses), Dutton-Goldfield Winery; Maureen Cottingham, Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance; Rep. Mike Thompson; Supervisor Efren Carrillo; Supervisor Susan Gorin. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

AMONG THE 100-PLUS ATTENDEES at the $1 million donation distribution were these check guardians, from left, George Hamel, Jr. of Hamel Family Winery; Joe Anderson, Benovia Winery; Tom Klein, Rodney Strong Vineyards; Katie Jackson, Jackson Family Wines; (behind Katie) Sonoma Mayor Tom Rouse; Honore Comfort, Sonoma County Vintners; Squire Fridell, GlenLyon Vineyards & Winery; Dan Goldfield (in sunglasses), Dutton-Goldfield Winery; Maureen Cottingham, Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance; Rep. Mike Thompson; Supervisor Efren Carrillo; Supervisor Susan Gorin. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

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The Sonoma Wine Country Weekend has been a highly successful fundraiser, taking in some $12 million in charitable donations since it was first established in 2008. But by any standard, 2013 was a banner year.

The proof of that came on Friday, when organizers presented a record-breaking, seven-figure check: $1,086,350 to be distributed among 44 Sonoma County charities.

“It’s the best day of the year,” said Squire Fridell, president of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Foundation, which partners with Sonoma County Vintners to hold the Labor Day weekend fundraiser.

Friday’s celebratory event – featuring a luncheon and check presentation and attended by more than 100 wine industry leaders, nonprofit

organizers, local luminaries and major donors – was held at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa.

A majority of the money raised will go to promoting children’s literacy, Fridell said, with more than $700,000 earmarked for three groups – Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, Community Action Partnership: Pasitos Playgroups, and United Way: Schools of Hope – through its “Fund the Future” initiative.

That money was raised through the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction last September, organizers said.

Nearly all of the remaining money was given to 41 local charities in grants ranging from $2,000 to $15,000.

Besides the $12 million raised for Sonoma County nonprofit organizations, organizers said the event raises millions for the local economy and helps to promote Sonoma County growers and vintners and the local tourism trade.

Recipients of Sonoma Wine Country Weekend grants are, Alliance Medical Center, Boys & Girls Club of Central Sonoma County, Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Ceres Community Project, Chop’s Teen Club, FISH (Friends In Sonoma Helping), Food for Thought, Global Student Embassy, Hanna Boys Center, Healdsburg Education Foundation, Jewish Community Free Clinic, La Luz, On the Move, Operation Access, PDI Surgery Center, Redwood Empire Food Bank, Sonoma Overnight Support, Sebastopol Area Senior Center, Sonoma Community Center, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Sonoma County Youth Ecology, Sonoma International Film Festival, Sonoma Paradiso Foundation, Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, SVVGA Scholarship Program, Sonoma Valley High School Agriculture Department, Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation, Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, Sonoma Valley Teen Services, Sunny Hill Services, The Children’s Village, The Living Room, Tomorrow’s Leaders Today, Transcendence Theatre Company, Valley of the Moon Aquatics, Verity, Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, WillMar Family Grief & Healing Center, Worth our Weight, and YWCA Sonoma County.