Vital Wines’ purpose is to contribute to SOS Health Services, a clinic in nearby College Place that accepts all patients, no questions asked.

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ASHLEY TROUT understands the fear of being badly injured in a foreign country without health insurance.

The winemaker for Flying Trout Wines in Walla Walla was in a bad rock-climbing accident a few years ago in Japan. She was hospitalized for 42 days and endured five operations. Fortunately, the health care was superb and affordable.

This is one of many motivations for Trout to do something to help those in the Walla Walla Valley wine industry who don’t have health insurance. Perhaps greatest is her deep understanding of why many people in the wine industry — not only low-income Hispanic workers who toil in the vineyards — go without coverage.

Ashley Trout of Flying Trout Wines in Walla Walla is leading a campaign to help Walla Walla wine industry workers who do not have health insurance. (Andy Perdue)
Ashley Trout of Flying Trout Wines in Walla Walla is leading a campaign to help Walla Walla wine industry workers who do not have health insurance. (Andy Perdue)

She worked eight years in the wine industry without health insurance. That, she says, is pretty normal, because winery work is physical and seasonal, and these small-business owners already working on low margins simply cannot afford to provide that safety net.

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So Trout is doing something about it, and you can join her by purchasing a delicious bottle or two of wine.

Last fall, Trout launched Vital Wines, a nonprofit winery whose purpose is to raise money for SOS Health Services in College Place, a community near Walla Walla. Trout is on the SOS board and knows firsthand what its needs are. The clinic accepts all patients, no questions asked. It takes donations, but most cannot afford that.

To help SOS, Vital Wines will release a rosé this spring and a red blend this fall. Trout is producing the wines at Sean Boyd’s facility at the Walla Walla airport. He owns Rotie Cellars and Proletariat Wine Company. Like just about everything in this project, the space is provided at no cost.

Ashley Trout of Flying Trout Wines was motivated to help SOS Health Services after a rock-climbing accident in Japan left her hospitalized for 42 days. (Andy Perdue)
Ashley Trout of Flying Trout Wines was motivated to help SOS Health Services after a rock-climbing accident in Japan left her hospitalized for 42 days. (Andy Perdue)

Trout, whose compassion and energy are powering Vital Wines, is working closely with top vineyards to provide their best grapes to the project at no cost. Other companies are donating such needed materials as corks, bottles, labels, shipping supplies and lab work. Trout is leading by example with her labor.

Thanks to all of the donations, close to 100 percent of the retail price of wines sold directly to consumers will go to SOS — a remarkable achievement.

Vital Wines is not a large-production operation, nor is it ever likely to be. Trout is comfortable keeping it around 500 cases. First of all, that number will provide a great funding boost to SOS. Secondly, it’s not so much that it will compete for sales with other wineries. And finally, she doesn’t want those who are donating their time, effort and goods to Vital Wines to feel too much of a burden.

The easiest way to buy bottles of Vital Wines is through its mailing list (sign up at vitalwinery.com), as they are unlikely to reach many retail locations in the Seattle area.

Raise a glass of Vital Wines. It’s the right thing to do.