PROSSER, Wash. -- While the nation's economy continues to slowly recover, one industry with local ties is enjoying some impressive growth or at least that's what we're hearing from those in the wine industry. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is one of the biggest wine makers in Washington, producing about two million cases of wine a year.
Much of their production is done in Paterson, but the Vice President of Operations, Rob McKinney said the demand for red wine especially continues to rise, which is why they're expanding. "The wine industry is alive and well in this area. There's currently not necessarily enough fruit in the ground to meet the demand," said McKinney.
McKinney said the company plans to open 14 Hands winery in Prosser, Washington by fall 2013, one of their most popular wines that are fairly priced.
"The performance of 14 Hands has been nothing short of remarkable," said Ted Baseler, President and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. "Since its initial introduction in 2005, we have watched 14 Hands evolve into a Washington powerhouse and the fastest growing wine brand to reach one million cases sold in the history of the Washington wine industry.
"We are excited to respond to consumer demand by creating a unique 14 Hands winery destination," Baseler said. The winery announcement comes on the heels of a major brand milestone: more than one million cases of wine were shipped nationally in 2012, just seven years after 14 Hands was introduced to a limited number of restaurants.
The winery will replace Snoqualme Winery, which has stood off Frontier Road for the last 12 years. Guest amenities will feature a tasting bar, lounge and a barrel room for Reserve wine tastings. Barn wood, stone and earth tones will be used throughout the interior and exterior courtyard to reflect the winery's location at the base of the Horse Heaven Hills appellation. Extensive renovations will transform the facility into an important destination along the town's wine tourism corridor. In addition to several wineries, this area also will be the home of the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center which began construction in January. The "Clore" Center will be a tourism showcase for the Washington state wine industry.
"It's a place for tourists who are coming to the Valley and to Eastern Washington to stop and be the first place to get an idea about the wine industry. We'll also have a large teaching classroom. We will have a full catered kitchen so we can hold banquets up to 300 people," said President of the Clore, Bob Stevens.
Stevens said the $4 million project should be open by the end of October, and many believe its worth the investment, including the Executive Director of the Prosser Economic Development, Deb Heintz. "The first year at the Clore Center, we anticipate 25,000 visitors and that's being very conservative," said Heintz.
Heintz also said industry as a whole is growing, so much that it's doubled the construction in the city. "Over the past ten years, we've averaged about roughly $8 million in new construction projects within the city limits. Last year we saw over $16 million," said Heintz.