PROSSER, Wash. — Washington’s new Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center will feature wines of Puget Sound in its first month of operation.
Wines of the Rattlesnake Hills, between Yakima and the Tri-Cities, will be highlighted in July and the Yakima Valley in August, said Abbey Cameron, executive director of the center.
“We’re featuring a different AVA (American Viticultural Area) every month and drew names from a hat to be fair,” Cameron said. Washington has 13 AVAs.
The $4 million center, planned by Washington’s wine industry for more than 12 years, promotes Washington wines, food and agriculture. It is a place for tourists, the public and wine connoisseurs to learn about Washington wines.
More than 250 people attended the center’s May 30 grand opening, including a dozen relatives of Walter Clore, Cameron said. Clore’s daughter, Nancy Dexter, of Yakima, spoke, as did Steve Warner, president of the Washington Wine Commission. A toast was given with Columbia Crest 2010 Walter Clore Private Reserve.
Clore was a researcher at the Washington State University Irrigated Agriculture Research Extension Center near Prosser from 1937 to 1976. He tested more than 250 American, European and hybrid wine grape varieties and partnered with WSU microbiologist Charles Nagel to determine the best for Washington. He had a vision and passion for a Washington wine industry and convinced farmers to begin vineyards in the 1970s. Pioneers grew wine grapes in the 1880s, but those efforts didn’t last.
Clore died in 2003 at 91 and the same year was named father of the Washington wine industry by the state Legislature.
The 15,000-square-foot facility includes banquet and tasting rooms, agriculture-themed exhibits and wine and culinary programs in a chef’s demonstration kitchen. There’s a tribute to Clore in the lobby and a time line of industry highlights in the tasting room.
The center was built in 2013 on the edge of Prosser overlooking the Yakima River and not far from the extension center where Clore worked. The Clore center began holding banquets in February and has been open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily since May 31.
It was rented for high school graduation parties the weekend after its grand opening and will be used for weddings, banquets, wine tastings, concerts, cooking demonstrations and other events.
A 2,400-square-foot vineyard pavilion, next to the center, opened June 30, 2011, and has been used for events since then.
A $2 million federal grant, a $1.2 million state grant and private donations paid for the center, which is operated by a private, nonprofit corporation. The buildings and land are owned by the Port of Benton.
The industry also is involved in building a $23 million WSU Wine Science Center in Richland that is scheduled to open in 2015.
Washington is second only to California in wine and wine grape production. Washington has 350 growers producing about 210,000 tons of wine grapes annually on 50,000 acres. More than 800 wineries produce 12.5 million cases of wine a year. Winery revenue is estimated at $1 billion annually by the state wine commission. Economic impact is estimated at $8.6 billion to Washington and $14.9 billion to the U.S.