PROSSER — A long-awaited interpretive center for Washington's wine industry opened quietly in Prosser earlier this year.
While the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center's building is complete, some finishing touches are needed to complete the center's ability to tell that story.
But finishing the tasting room and exhibits hasn't stopped the center -- operated by a nonprofit board -- from playing host to events during the past few months.
"The pieces are coming together," said Abbey Cameron, the center's director.
Signs for the Clore center, at 2140 Wine Country Road, are still in the works, along with adding the center to the attraction signs on Interstate 82, Cameron said.
And the center is waiting to receive the liquor license for the new building, she said.
Construction of the $4 million facility was paid for by a $2 million federal grant, a $1.4 million state grant and fundraising by the board. The nonprofit operates the center, and the Port of Benton owns the property and the building.
The nonprofit now is focused on raising about $300,000 to help pay for an expected operational shortfall this year, the exhibits and equipment, Cameron said. They've already received more than half of that amount.
The center's goal is to tell the story of the state's wine industry. It honors Walter Clore, who worked at Washington State University's Irrigated Agriculture Research & Extension Center north of Prosser and helped prove that wine grapes would be a viable crop in the Columbia Valley. He died in 2003.
At the moment, the center's tasting room and the granite countertops of the bar are bare. The high ceiling is made of wood panels and beams.
Eventually, the space will be filled with exhibits, including a map of Washington's wine grape-growing regions behind the tasting bar, Cameron said.
Exhibits will pay tribute to Clore and the history of the state's wine industry, including the recent expansion in grape vine acreage and wineries, she said.
There will also be an aroma wheel with vials that visitors can sniff as they try to identify what tastes are in the wine they are sampling, such as chocolate, Cameron said.
The tasting bar will offer different selections of Washington wine each month, allowing visitors to try wine from around the state, she said. That wine also will be offered for sale along with Washington-made food products in a retail area next to the tasting bar.
The food products also will likely be rotated, Cameron said.
The nonprofit is in the process of hiring a tasting room supervisor. Cameron said that needs to happen before finishing up the tasting room and holding a grand opening. The center will have about eight to 10 part-time and full-time staff.
The tasting room is separated from banquet space by a large outdoor patio that overlooks the Yakima River.
The banquet space can be divided into three smaller rooms and features an immaculate kitchen for culinary events. A small conference room is also available.
The banquet space is already in use, with the first event occurring in January shortly after construction was complete, Cameron said.
Income from events and rentals will help pay for operational expenses. Sales of beer, liquor and wine will be one of the center's largest single sources of revenue.
Cameron said they are already getting many inquiries for a variety of events during the week and on weekends.
During Spring Barrel Tasting, the Clore center will sell wine in the Vineyard Pavilion, and hold UnWined, with local musicians playing and wine and food available.
For more information or to donate, go to www.theclorecenter.org or call 509-786-1000.