Port of Benton buys winery

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldOctober 16, 2013 

PROSSER -- Tourists may be sipping wine in the former Olsen Estates tasting room in Prosser by the end of the year.

Port of Benton commissioners agreed Wednesday to approve the purchase of the tasting room, which closed in January 2011, along with all wine making equipment and the land. They are also planning to buy an undeveloped acre between the winery and Airfield Estates. Both facilities are in Vintner's Village in Prosser.

Cost is $1.8 million.

"The plan is to develop the building for a potential client and stimulate some activity in that area," said Diahann Howard, director of economic development and government affairs for the port.

The approximately 12,000-square-foot winery stands at the entrance to Vintner's Village and it's obviously empty, she said.

The Olsen family shuttered their showpiece tasting room in 2011 to return to being growers because they couldn't make the tasting room profitable, the winery's sales manager told the Herald at the time.

The port always encourages private development first, but that's not occurred. So the commissioners decided to step in and try to get some momentum moving again in Prosser, Howard said.

A winemaker currently sharing production facilities in Richland with other winemakers has already expressed interest in leasing the winery.

"He's currently producing 30 cases and this would give him space to produce additional product," said Howard. She declined to name the port's potential client, saying, "We need to do our due diligence and get the lease in place first. This is only the first step toward purchase."

The port wants to inspect the building and equipment to be sure all is in order. The sale is contingent on that, she said.

"The idea is for this to be a turn-key operation for our tenant," Howard said.

She expects the sale to be completed, and the port's new tenant to be moving in, by the end of the year.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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