The groundbreaking of Washington State University’s Wine Science Center on September 26 is as much about the wine industry’s future as it is a new facility. The new Wine Science Center, being built at WSU Tri-Cities, helps fulfill the state wine industry’s vision of becoming a world-class wine region.

VIPs of Washington State's wine industry, Washington State University officials, and Governor Jay Inslee prepare to symbolically move the first shovels of dirt in building WSU's Wine Science Center.

VIPs of Washington State’s wine industry, Washington State University officials, and Governor Jay Inslee prepare to symbolically move the first shovels of dirt in building WSU’s Wine Science Center.


The groundbreaking of a 40,000 square feet, state-of-the-art wine science center celebrates a great milestone for WSU and the state’s wine industry, said Ted Baseler, chief executive officer of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and a WSU Regent. “Every great wine region in the world has a signature institution that supports the wine industry with research, and now we do, too.”

The $23 million center will include a research and teaching winery, research laboratories, classrooms, conference rooms and a regional and international wine library.

Lydig Construction, Inc. and ALSC Architects of Spokane are designing and building the project. Construction is expected to be completed by early 2015.

The vision to become a premium wine region began years ago, Baseler told the crowd of more than 150 growers, winemakers, university, state and local officials. It began in the 1960s when Drs. Walter Clore and Chas Nagel convinced pioneering growers that they could grow world class wines in Washington, he said. “And, those old guys were right.”

WineScienceCenterBaselerTedWashington’s first American Viticultural Area was approved in 1983, shared Steve Warner, head of the Washington Wine Commission. Yakima Valley was the first appellation in the Pacific Northwest, he says, and 12 more AVAs have been designated in the state since.

Some 350 growers produce grapes for about 800 wineries bonded in the state, according to Warner. The wine industry contributes $8.6 billion to the state’s economy, based on 2011 data, he said, adding that the wine industry projects its economic impact will triple to $25 billion in 2020.

The Wine Science Center, a result of the Wine Commission and the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers coming together, will help the state’s wine industry reach its potential, Warner added.

Governor Jay Inslee, who also participated in shoveling the dirt, said the center “symbolizes the power of partnerships” and represents future economic growth for the state. “When you think about tripling the wine industry’s economic impact to $25 billion, wouldn’t it be great to think that although we’ve been known for our Boeing and Microsoft industries, we’ll also be known for our wine industry,” he said.

WineSciencCenterInsleeJayMore than $19 million has been pledged or donated in the last two years as part of the WSU fundraising campaign chaired by Baseler. Major funding for the center comes from the Washington Wine Commission’s pledge of $7.4 million generated through grower and winery self-assessments, $5 million contributed by the state, and $2.06 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The Port of Benton donated land valued at $350,000. WSU is leading financing and fundraising efforts and the city of Richland is managing the Wine Science Center Development Authority, which oversees construction. Once the center is built, the development authority will turn it over to WSU.

Of the $19 million, some $4.5 million has been donated through corporate and private commitments and in-kind donations of equipment and professional services. Most recently, two California companies—Cooperages 1912 and Oak Solutions Group—owned by the Boswell family pledged $250,000 and a decade’s worth of wine barrels. Another major cash donation of $100,000 comes from Hamilton Cellars, a small winery in Richland. The winery’s contribution is being matched by another WSU benefactor to make the pledge worth $200,000.

Last year, Spokane Industries, manufacturer of stainless steel tanks, pledged $600,000 worth of tanks for the new research winery. An anonymous contribution of $500,000 was given early on.

“We have $2 million left to go in raising funds for the building and $2 million left that’s needed for equipment,” said Baseler, adding that the campaign committee continues to work towards reaching the $23 million goal.

In thanking WSU President Elson Floyd and the WSU Regents for financing the project, Baseler said that the Wine Science Center project would be a “signature program” in viticulture and enology research and education and propels WSU as one of the top five wine programs in the world.

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