Kennewick Wine Village Takes Shape

Washington's Port of Kennewick chooses two winery tenants for incubator spaces

by Peter Mitham
wine grape kennewick columbia gardens incubator
Having maxed out the space at its current facility (above), Bartholomew Winery will move into a facility custom built for wine production after being chosen along with Palencia Wine Co. by the Port of Kennewick in Washington state.

Kennewick, Wash.—The new year will see two wineries relocate their production facilities into the Port of Kennewick’s long-awaited Columbia Gardens development on the Kennewick waterfront.

On Dec. 13, port commissioners selected Palencia Wine Co., currently located at the Walla Walla airport, and Bartholomew Winery of Seattle to occupy the first phase of the development.

“Commissioners directed staff to move forward with an initial letter of intent and then to finalize negotiations with the two wineries that were recommended by the working committee,” port deputy CEO Tana Bader-Inglima told Wines & Vines.

A staff report circulated at the meeting recommended granting tenancies to the two wineries following “aggressive marketing efforts” that attracted inquiries from wineries in Walla Walla, the Tri-Cities, Prosser, Woodinville and Seattle. The inquiries led to applications from three wineries.

Bader-Inglima said discussions with the third applicant continue, with a view to a lease agreement for the second phase of the development.

The lease agreements with Bartholomew and Palencia bring the long-standing vision for Columbia Gardens to fruition after years of planning.

Three winery incubator buildings of 3,200 to 3,600 square feet were originally set for completion and occupancy by July 2015. However, construction began in October 2016, and occupancy is now set for summer 2017.

Larry Peterson, the port’s planning and development director, told Wines & Vines in 2015 that plans for the development were proceeding carefully, as the project aimed to serve both public purposes as well as support development of the local wine industry (see “Washington Cities Compete for Wine Villages”). 

“We’re being somewhat selective,” Peterson said at the time. “We don’t want ’em to go dark, we don’t want ’em to be undercapitalized, and I don’t want ’em making vinegar.”

Wineries were targeted for Columbia Gardens, a 400-acre site on the Columbia River bounded by bridges and rail lines because they are both processing operations that reflect the area’s industrial character as well as tourism draws. A wastewater-processing facility operated by Kennewick city is part of the project, ensuring compliance with pending requirements from the Washington Department of Ecology (see “Washington Wastewater Permit Set for Spring Release”).

The wastewater system factored into the applications of both Palencia and Bartholomew.

Bart Fawbush, winemaker and co-owner of Bartholomew Winery, said he wanted to expand from his 2,500-square-foot premises in the old Rainier Brewery south of downtown Seattle.

“One of the big hurdles, or first domino to fall, is where do you make the wine?” he said. “We heard about this space (at Columbia Gardens) opening up, a brand-new facility, world-class facility, made to be a winery.”

The space at Columbia Gardens will be 5,500 square feet and built with the sloped floors, drains and barrel room wineries need, making for a more comfortable production area.

“Additionally, this new site is going to be treating our wastewater, so ecologically, the foresight on it is really nice,” Fawbush said. “That’s just one less thing for me to have to worry about. It will already be put in there.”

Bartholomew Winery won’t be leaving Seattle completely; the existing tasting room will remain open. However, the move realigns the winery with Eastern Washington, where its grapes originate. In addition to new production space, Fawbush said he’s also in talks to buy a vineyard within the next 12 to 24 months to feed the winery’s annual production of 2,000 cases.

The plans for additional investment underscore the spin-off benefits from such developments.

Wine villages in Washington state have built on the success of earlier clusters adjacent to Chateau Ste. Michelle in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville, and in Eastern Washington at Walla Walla Regional Airport and Port of Benton’s Vintner’s Village in Prosser. In addition to giving wineries space, they anchor the development of restaurants, hotels and even residential development.

Fawbush, however, is staying focused on the immediate future. While he looks forward to Columbia Basin College developing a culinary school at Columbia Gardens, his sights are set on harvest 2017.

“They’re drafting up a lease for us to review and go over the first part of the year,” he said. “The idea is to move in July or August, and be open for tasting then, and then have our first crush, our first harvest in the location.”


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