The ceremonial groundbreaking at the Walla Walla Valley’s newest vineyard over the weekend was far from your run-of-the-mill golden shovel moment.

More than 300 people took a dig at the new Pambrun Vineyard, flying in from as far as Florida for last Sunday’s occasion. Pambrun, owned by Willamette Valley Vineyards, is part of the 1,500-acre SeVein Vineyards.

SeVein Vineyards was founded by Walla Walla Valley winery visionaries Marty Clubb, Norm McKibben, Chris Figgins, Gary Figgins, and Bob Rupar. Combined they have 90 years of experience producing grapes. Each owns a vineyard in the development, and they have invited select producers to plant alongside them, according to an announcement.

Willamette Valley Vineyards was one of those producers invited. It bought land to build a vineyard and by-appointment-only tasting room. Pambrun is named in honor of the fifth grandfather of Willamette Valley Vineyards founder Jim Bernau. Pierre Pambrun led the Hudson’s Bay Company trading post in Walla Walla.

Among the crowd moving dirt were the many owners who have purchased preferred stock to be part of the project.

Bernau’s early vision to have a world-class winery operation catered to terroir couldn’t have been financed independently. So he secured qualification from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and conducted the nation’s first successful self-underwritten Regulation A public offering in 1989, creating the first “crowd funded,” consumer-owned business in the U.S. with nearly 1,000 owners investing an average of $1,500 each, the announcement explained. Today the winery is owned by more than 9,000 wine enthusiasts holding the winery’s common and preferred stock. 

Owner Carole Christian flew in from Florida to plant a cabernet sauvignon vine for the occasion. In a prepared statement she said she made the trip “because we love the wine and it just seemed like a fun thing to do — the idea of being a part of the ownership was a thrill.”

Willamette Valley Vineyards is collaborating with architect Joe Chauncey of Boxwood Architects in Seattle to design the tasting room and winery. The cab-focused wines for Pambrun are made by consulting winemaker Jon Meuret of Maison Bleue Winery.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, or on Twitter at

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.