Hamilton Cellars tasting room opens in Richland

By Andy Perdue, Herald staff writer January 4, 2011 

RICHLAND -- A key component of making wine is patience.

The owners of Hamilton Cellars, which opens Wednesday in south Richland, have shown plenty of that.

Four years ago, Russ and Stacie Hamilton began working on their dream of opening a winery in the heart of Washington wine country. They found what they thought was the perfect site in West Richland near the end of Keene Road and planned to create a wine village with several wineries and condos.

Just as they were about to start development, they found out the land the city of West Richland sold to them actually was owned by the Bureau of Land Management, which wasn't interested in selling it.

That led to lawsuits to recover money paid the city, and they found a new site in Kennewick's Southridge area.

"We bought a lot by Zintel Canyon Dam, and it had a beautiful view," said Stacie Hamilton.

Just as design work started, the land loan fell through because of the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Richland changed its zoning laws, allowing wineries within city limits. They already owned a wealth management firm in Queensgate Village on Keene Road and also lived in the building, which they own. So their new plan was to put a tasting room there.

In addition, they found a warehouse near the Richland Fred Meyer store for wine production. They bought the building and leased it to Charlie Hoppes, owner and winemaker of Fidelitas Wines on Red Mountain, who also is their contract winemaker.

When the their tasting room opens Wednesday, they will have reached the end of a long journey -- and will begin a new one.

Through it all, Hoppes has been making wine for them, so they will be able to release bottlings from 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 vintages.

Their focus is malbec, a red grape traditionally grown in France's Bordeaux region, though it is considered mostly a blending grape there.

'I wish I could say we were smart enough to see a niche,' Stacie Hamilton said. "Charlie thought there would be a lot of interest in it, and not a lot of people were making it."

Three of their wines will feature malbec, a red blend called Bona Vita, a red made primarily from malbec, and a malbec rosé. The Hamiltons also will release a merlot, a cabernet sauvignon and a white blend of viognier and semillon.

Though Hamilton Cellars is the first winery in Queensgate Village, the Hamiltons believe the area has space for two to four more tasting rooms. They also are talking about putting in a walking path to Bookwalter, Barnard Griffin and Tagaris wineries about a half-mile away.

Eventually, they would like to buy land on Red Mountain and have an estate vineyard around their winery.

For now, though, they are just happy to be open.

* Andy Perdue is editor of Wine Press Northwest, a quarterly wine magazine owned by the Herald. Email him at editor@winepressnw.com.

Hamilton Cellars

* 1950 Keene Road, Building 1 (Queensgate Village), Richland, 628-8227, www.hamiltoncellars.com.

Open from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and from noon to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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