Donation from Washington wine’s past to fund future

By Scott Weybright, College of Agricultural, Human & Natural Resource Sciences

Albert-Ravenholt-80RICHLAND, Wash. – Albert Ravenholt’s legacy is growing posthumously with a $500,000 donation to the Washington State University Wine Science Center from the Albert Victor Ravenholt Foundation.

“He was always deeply interested in agriculture,” said Ravenholt’s brother, Reimert Ravenholt. “He did his research and realized Washington had great soils and climate for growing grapes.”

Learning, research result from early risk

Albert Ravenholt was a founding partner in Sagemoor Vineyards in Pasco in the early 1970s.

Kent Waliser, Sagemoor general manager, said Ravenholt and his early partners took a huge risk establishing vineyards where no industry existed.

“Those investors put their money on the line, and the entire region is benefiting from that vision,” said Waliser, who knew Ravenholt for several years.

The research and testing vineyard at the Wine Science Center in Richland.

The new Wine Science Center includes a research and teaching vineyard for demonstration of various grape varieties and grape training systems. Students will learn about vineyard maintenance and fruit ripening first hand.

Research will support the health and growth of the grape industry into the future. The research and teaching vineyard will be named for Albert Ravenholt.

“When you’re standing in the test vineyard, you can look across the river to Sagemoor Vineyards,” Waliser said. “I think Albert would be pretty happy that he helped make that happen.”

Wine country intrigues world traveler

Ravenholt, who died in 2010 at age 90, was a world traveler and adventurer after he left his native Wisconsin in the late 1930s. After studying at Grandview College in Iowa, he worked at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

He hitchhiked from New York to California before traveling around the world as chief cook on a Swedish steamship. He wound up in China and served as a war correspondent for United Press International during World War II.

He met his wife Marjorie, a native of Sunnyside, Wash., while working in Asia during the war. They married in Shanghai in 1946. They later owned homes in, and split time between, Seattle and the Philippines for over 40 years. Marjorie died in 1992 in Seattle.

“Albert’s wine interest came from visiting his wife’s hometown in the Yakima Valley,” Reimert Ravenholt said.

Gifts to center, lecture endowment

Reimert said his brother’s talents and business acumen brought him financial success through the vineyards and other business investments. And Reimert, as president of the foundation, is now working to see that the results of that success support things his brother was passionate about.

The donation from the Albert Victor Ravenholt Foundation will give $400,000 directly to the center while $100,000 will endow a lecture series for the WSU viticulture and enology program.

“We’re sure Albert would have been greatly interested in creative ventures like the Wine Science Center,” Reimert said. “He always wanted to improve viticulture in Washington and throughout the Northwest.”

“We are very thankful for engaged wine industry partners like the Ravenholt Foundation and Kent Waliser with Sagemoor,” said Thomas Henick-Kling, director of the viticulture and enology program. “Their contributions aid WSU in offering world-class wine education spanning vine to market.”


Thomas Henick-Kling, Director, WSU viticulture and enology program, 509-372-7292,

Scott Weybright, WSU College of Agricultural, Human & Natural Resource Sciences, 509-335-2967,