GEORGE, Wash. — The largest custom wine bottling plant in the state will begin operations in mid-to-late January at Ancient Lake Wine Co. in George.
The 60,000-square-foot facility will be capable of bottling 250 bottles of wine per minute, 10,000 cases per day and 2.2 million cases a year, said Brandon Rice, winemaker and facility manager. It will run about 44 weeks per year and is equipped to produce sparkling wines.
That’s still just one-fourth to one-third of the capacity of Ste. Michelle Wine Estate’s bottling plants in Patterson, Rice said. Those plants almost exclusively bottle Ste. Michelle wines from Ste. Michelle wine grapes, whereas Ancient Lake Wine Co. produces wine from its grapes and others’ to sell to other companies to retail. It has no labels nor retail sales of its own.
Ancient Lake Wine Co. is part of Milbrandt Management, which also includes Milbrandt Evergreen, Milbrandt Vineyards, Wahluke Wine Co. and Desert Farms. Milbrandt is one of the larger wine producers in the state.
Ancient Lake Wine Co. owns 1,500 acres of vineyard in the Quincy-George area, 1,500 acres in Mattawa and sources wine grapes from about 1,000 acres of independent vineyards throughout Eastern Washington.
The new, $6 million bottling plant has 20,000 square feet for the bottling line and 40,000 square feet for packed case storage, said Katherine Ryf, Milbrandt Management CEO and vice president. Some 750,000 square feet of packed case storage will be added later, she said.
The first of four phases of the new winery began in 2014 and was finished last spring. The $10 million phase includes crushing equipment, one 250,000-gallon fermentation tank and 80, 34,000-gallon fermentation tanks all capable of crushing 23,000 tons of wine grapes annually for 3.8 million gallons of wine, Rice said.
The winery handled 15,700 tons of grapes in 2017 and produced about 2.6 million gallons of wine, he said.
“Every year we should have more tonnage and more wine but wine on hand will include carryover from the prior year,” he said.
The stainless steel fermentation tanks range up to 40 feet tall and are outside and coated with white, resin-based insulation, 3 to 4 inches thick to keep juice between 55 and 65 degrees, critical for fermentation.
The second phase is the bottling plant and packed case storage. The third phase, to start in 2019, will be another concrete pad for a duplicate set of fermentation tanks to raise total annual capacities to 50,000 tons of grapes and 8 million gallons of wine. A fourth phase will be a 45,000-square-foot barrel room.
Currently, about $23 million is invested in the total project but when all four phases are done they are expected to total $46 million and the timing of completion partly depends on demand from industry growth, Ryf said.