You can't use vertical-align. That's used to align inline elements, like text and images, in relation to other inline elements within the same block element. The vertical-align property is applied to inline elements, not block elements.
To accomplish the affect you want, add top padding to the DIV until you get the look you want. There simply is no vertical align that can be applied to block elements to align inline elements within it.
I think it's really annoying that we can't, but that's the way it is. Can we see the code you're working with, or an image mock-up of the affect you want? There may be other workarounds.