KENNEWICK — Washington's largest wine producer pledged an additional $1 million to the proposed Wine Science Center in Richland.
Ted Baseler, CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, told the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers on Wednesday that his company will chip in $1 million toward the $23.25 million project, which would be on the campus of WSU Tri-Cities.
Baseler, a 1976 WSU grad, is chairman of the fundraising committee for the Wine Science Center. He said today's $1 million contribution brings the total fundraising to about $10 million. Baseler said at least $4 million more is needed before construction can start, which he hopes will begin next year.
Last spring, the wine industry pledged $7.4 million to the Wine Science Center, which would be built on Port of Benton land on George Washington Way, adjacent to the Richland campus. Once the facility is built, it will be handed over to the university.
WSU President Elson Floyd also stood before the grape growers to thank them for their commitment to the Wine Science Center and the investment in the industry's future.
He pointed out that as recently as a decade ago, WSU did not offer an undergraduate degree in viticulture and enology. Today, about 50 students are enrolled in the undergraduate program, 120 students are in a two-year certificate program and 35 grad students are working with researchers in Richland, Prosser and Pullman. And WSU now has more than 30 faculty members who focus on wine-related research and education.
Baseler said the Wine Science Center will propel the state onto the global wine stage.
"This will be a great centerpiece for our industry," Baseler said. "It has been a passion of mine for almost 30 years to help our industry get to world-class status. This is probably the cornerstone piece that is missing. When we get there, well be on the world stage. We just need to close that gap in funding."
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, based in Woodinville, owns Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, Snoqualmie Vineyards, Northstar and Spring Valley Vineyards. It also co-owns Col Solare with Antinori of Italy.