Wine Science Center to be built at WSU Tri-Cities

The facility also will be a gathering place for industry collaboration, international students and scholars.

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A new $7.4 million Wine Science Center in Richland will prepare the next generation of winemakers and viticulturists with help from the fruits of the current ones.

The Washington State Wine Commission has committed $7.4 million to support construction of the Wine Science Center at the Washington State University Tri-Cities campus in Richland.

The money is to be generated over the next 10 years through assessments levied on grape and wine production, starting with the 2011 harvest, according to an announcement.

"Years from now, today will be seen as a significant milestone in the evolution of our industry," said Kent Waliser, chairman of the Washington State Wine Commission and general manager of Sagemoor Vineyards.

The project is a collaboration among the Port of Benton, city of Richland and Washington State University.

Designed as a state-of-the-art research and teaching facility, the center will be home to the university's growing Viticulture and Enology program.

The 45,000-square-foot facility will also be a gathering place for industry collaboration, international students and visiting scholars from around the world, according to an online description.

The building will include a gravity-flow research and teaching winery; extensive research laboratories; a grape-processing area; fermentation area with temperature-controlled tanks; and controlled temperature rooms for large-scale testing, filtration and bottling equipment.

It also will include a grape and wine analysis lab; greenhouses for vine propagation and vine physiology research; a teaching vineyard; a regional and international wine library; classrooms, conference rooms and lecture halls; and a gift shop and restaurant/cafeteria.

The Wine Science Center will be built on land donated by the Port of Benton and developed by a Public Development Authority created by the city of Richland.

In the works since the formation of an industry task force in 2006, the center is expected to facilitate research tailored to the state wine industry's needs. Those include improving winter hardiness, increasing grape and winery productivity, and enhancing grape and wine quality.

"The research that will take place at the Wine Science Center will help ensure the continued growth of our industry in an increasingly competitive global marketplace," Marty Clubb, owner of L'Ecole No 41 winery in Lowden and president of the Washington Wine Institute, said in a statement.

More than 700 wineries are licensed in Washington state, home to more than 40,000 vineyard acres. The wine industry, officials said in the announcement, contributes more than $3 billion to the state's annual economy.

Lynn Chamberlain, Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers chairwoman and owner of Spofford Station winery in the Walla Walla Valley, said the task force will continue to play a role in partnership with the center.

"All of the world's great wine regions have a benchmark institution that conducts research and education in the growing of grapes and winemaking," said Ted Baseler, chief executive officer of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and WSU board of regents chairman.

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