Five years ago, small-town Prosser,
Washington in the lower Yakima Valley started to buzz. New
wineries and vineyards were going in faster than ever
before. From just five wineries operating in 2000 to
(26 by 2007), Prosser-area wine country has become attractive to
more than a few members of the wine industry, wine-related
businesses and countless wine tourists. Next year, the number of
wine producers operating in the Prosser area of Washington State
will exceed five times that of just five years ago!
explains this fast-track to wine country prominence?
AN ACCIDENTAL WINE
VILLAGE IN THE MAKING
If you have followed the growth Prosser's wine country, you have
probably noticed what amounts to a paradigm shift in its profile
as a wine region. Washington's eastside-dominated wine
industry is beginning to rotate around the lower-Yakima-Valley
town of Prosser. The emerging hub was not written into any
overarching industry plan, but as the industry goes, so goes
Stimson Lane Vineyards and Estates (today's Ste Michelle Wine
Estates) announced it would build a large new winery in Prosser
Snoqualmie Vineyards, there were just
to attract wine enthusiasts. Even so, Prosser was included
regularly in wine-tour plans through the Yakima Valley and Red
announcement that Snoqualmie Vineyards would join the small
group of Prosser-area wineries was good news for wine-country
tourists, but it was news of seismic proportions for members of
the Northwest wine industry and those considering entering it.
Answers to the "why Prosser" question were supplied by news
stories in mainstream and industry publications, and the area
gained not only increased respect from the trade, but serious
consideration from prospective businesses researching locations
for new wine-related businesses.
the Snoqualmie Vineyards announcement sent waves of excitement,
and a little anxiety, through city and county government.
(Prosser is the county seat of Benton County.) The
handwriting was appearing on their collective walls, and
stepped-up strategic planning was clearly in order. New
goals and local-government programs and projects focused on the
subject of wine tourism and economic development needs. The
potential for the area to become a hub for wine tourism was
obvious enough to attract public and private grant dollars for a
wide variety of related local projects.
The rate of new-business licensing began to accelerate a few
years ago, and has shown no sign of slowing. Dozens of new
licenses have been issued by the City recently, with a large
portion being for wine-related businesses. Economic
Development has become a serious subject in Benton County
(third-fastest-growing county in the state) and public agencies
-- the County, the City and the Port
-- joined hands to provide assistance to prospective businesses
and and to work together to enhance the wine-tourism atmosphere
of the area.
No doubt these efforts have helped turn
the Prosser area into an epicenter of
Washington's wine industry and a magnet for wine tourists,
causing prospective businesses to take a close look at
More than a few wine-industry members have been doing just
that... and the closer they look, the more the Prosser area
looks like a smart choice for locating new or expanded
businesses. Winemakers recognize the area as central to
Eastern Washington growing areas, areas that are connected by
major highways leading beyond their own area to the growing
areas of Red Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope, the
Walla Walla Valley and other parts of the vast Columbia Valley
appellation. Ease of premium grape sourcing and wine
shipping is increasingly essential to winemaking professionals.
kind of momentum has been building for years in Prosser-area
wine country, but the Snoqualmie Vineyards winery announcement
threw it into high gear. Since that announcement, more
than a dozen
new wineries have chosen this area for their winemaking
bringing today's total to almost
almost, because construction is not yet complete on the new
destination winery, The Winemaker's Loft
(which will house seven wineries), Olsen
winery and Milbrandt Vineyards,
all scheduled to open later this year or in the spring of 2007.
leaders predict as much as $20 million in new construction
projects, more than double 2005's total of $8.2 million,
according to City Administrator Fred Stouder.
Desert Wind's destination winery nears
Alexandria Nicole reinvents itself in
Prosser Wine & Food Park
Accidental Wine Village at the North Prosser Business Park
Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center
Prosser Wine Tasting Opportunities
Area Touring Tips
DESERT WIND -
$3.5 MILLION PROSSER WINERY
... a destination winery in the making
Upon completion later this year, Desert Wind
must be placed in the category of destination wineries.
Santa Fe-style building
will include a large tasting room (4,755
square feet ), a winemaking facility (3,600
square feet of barrels and tanks), a banquet room (3,265 square
feet) adjacent to a commercial kitchen designed to accommodate
from banquet services to intimate wine dinners, two outdoor
patios overlooking the Yakima River and totaling 6,000 square
feet, and four guest rooms for overnight visitors, including a
670-square-foot bridal suite, three guest suites ranging from
427 to 576 square feet and a private two-bedroom winery suite.
Plans have been in the works for about five years to find the
correct location and create this facility. After about a year of
scouring the Woodinville area for an appropriate site, the Fries
& Jenkins families (also owners of Oregon's Duck Pond Cellars)
turned to Prosser and began the search for what is now their new
production facility and soon will be Desert Wind Winery. The
site enjoys great access from Highway 82, making easy the
transportation of grapes grown at the Fries' Desert Wind
Vineyard on nearby Wahluke Slope north of Prosser.
Grapes grown on the family's 540-acre Wahluke-Slope vineyard
already have proven their high quality in many a Desert Wind
wine produced since the mid 90s. The first vintage crushed
at the new Desert Wind production facility in Prosser was 2004.
The Fries and Jenkins families hope to open their destination
winery and tasting room Presidents Day Weekend 2007.
Portland or Spokane, Prosser is about a three-hour drive.
Each of those drives is as dramatically scenic as the next,
with connecting roads passing either over the Cascade
Mountains or through them at the near-sea-level Columbia
River Gorge, or down from the Palouse.
ALEXANDRIA NICOLE RELOCATES, REMODELS