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Cia Cortinas Rood of Zero Proof Walla Walla

Prefer zero proof? Walla Walla has so much to offer

Going dry. Sober curious. Zero proof.

By Vicki Hillhouse

Of all the ways to describe an alcohol-free experience — whether for a night, a month or the foreseeable future — one label that doesn’t apply is “boring.”

Gone are the days of ho-hum zero-alcohol beverage options. A growing number of Walla Walla’s restaurant, bar and tasting room menus have embraced those who want to ditch the booze while keeping the “craft” in cocktails for a more robust selection of drink options for all.

Examples: Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen’s N/Agroni; the “You Go Glenn Coco,” made with coco cream, orange, passionfruit and soda twist, at Hattaway’s on Alder; and the Italian Gucci with a zero-alcohol gin substitute, bittersweet aperitivo and grapefruit on the “placebo” menu at Marcy’s Bar & Lounge.

And if you want a deep dive on where to find it — from grocery store shelves to multicourse menus — look no further than local Cia Cortinas Rood.

A schoolteacher who worked 12 years in the wine industry, she is the maven of the local movement. She started documenting her own alcohol-free journey on social media. As her following quickly grew, so did her efforts to organize zero-proof tastings, advocate for expanded options in retailers and restaurants, and highlight a variety of drinks for those embracing alcohol-free choices. During a stop at FVC Gallery, a favorite spot for zero-proof drinks, she shared the story of her journey.

What is the goal of Zero Proof Walla Walla?

My mission is not to tell people what to do. I just think people need to know it’s OK not to drink, which sounds silly. I think being on the inside of the wine industry for so long did kind of help open that conversation because it was someone on the inside.

When I started, I thought it was going to reach more people within the industry. But immediately, it was all kinds of people. I get messaged two to three times a day by people who want to drink less but didn’t know where to start. A lot of the messages are from men who say things like, “I work in construction or manufacturing, and I’ve been wanting to slow down on my drinking but I’m worried I’ll be made fun of.”

How do we rewrite the narrative for people to take their choices back into power?

How did this start for you?

I really wanted to be open and honest about what was going on in my life. I had been reading about alcohol from a sober curious perspective and learning about its effects before I started the Zero Proof Walla Walla page on Facebook [now also on Instagram]. It was like a little diary, and it took off fast. Waterbrook Winery reached out. They have an alcohol-free wine. They wanted to collaborate on their first ever alcohol-free happy hour. They thought they’d sell a little wine, but they ended up selling, like, eight cases.

I had my first big event at Marcy’s — a Walla Walla Zero Proof happy hour. Fifty-seven guests showed up. It was then that I realized this is so much bigger than me.

I started cold calling people, and they responded positively. Henry Earl brought in alcohol-free beers at the tasting room. Walla Walla Foundry Vineyards brought one in. The Thief (Fine Wine & Beer) has brought in so much. There’s now an alcohol-free wine made in Walla Walla, called UnWined (available at Isenhower Cellars). Even grocery stores have huge selections. 

How do the zero-proof options change the experience in a community known for wine and food?

They provide an elevated experience for people who don’t want to drink alcohol. These options allow people to have an adult experience and blend in with their friends and family. It expands what’s already great with sophisticated options. Giving people the power to have that choice is really important.

The Walla Walla Valley looks to welcome and ensure all visitors have something to enjoy during their stay. So no matter what you’ll drinking…