We're in the heart of Washington wine country and Washington State University has made moves to ensure it is the premier educational institution in that industry.
UC-Davis has long been the mecca for aspiring winemakers, but WSU's Viticulture and Enology Program has gotten several boosts of late to help make it a contender, as well as a critical piece of the ever-important wine industry.
With renowned director Thomas Henick-Kling now at the helm of WSU's program, the university is looking for a home in the Tri-Cities for its Wine Science Center. The center, Henick-Kling says, is critical to the evolution of the wine industry in Washington state.
Research and education will be key components of the 45,000-square-foot, $12 million building. It will cost millions more to furnish and equip.
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To achieve that end, the Port of Benton is moving forward with a long-term lease agreement for the center on five acres of port property at George Washington Way and First Street in Richland's research district.
The Wine Science Center would build on work already taking place at the Prosser research facility. But that facility, which works with many other ag products beyond wine, is limited in how much it can do. Currently, Prosser creates about 100 test batches of wine per year. That number would expand to meet the demand for 500 test batches.
The new center would allow for a larger teaching vineyard, the creation of a wine library and a wine analysis laboratory.
Thanks to the Port of Benton and WSU, the Tri-Cities' status in the booming wine industry will continue to become more important and influential across the state and region.