California Winery Owner Has Crush on Washington Riesling

The owner of California's famous and quirky Bonny Doon Vineyards plans to break ground this week on a $5.7 million winery in West Richland. Pacific Rim Wine Co. would be the largest winery in the U.S. dedicated solely to producing riesling wines if the owners produce their planned 300,000 cases yearly. Washington's Chateau Ste. Michelle is the single largest riesling producer in the world, making 600,000 cases last year. The 30,000-square-foot Pacific Rim winery will be built in the Port of Kennewick's industrial park in West Richland and is to be completed in time for this year's crush. Randall Grahm -- owner of Bonny Doon -- started Pacific Rim in 1984. The winery produces about 100,000 cases of three styles of riesling -- sweet, dry and dessert. The dry and sweet white wines sell at $11.99 a bottle and the dessert sells for about $15.99 a half-bottle. The project is a collaboration between Grahm and Mid-Columbia brothers Andy and Bill Den Hoed, who own Desert Hills Vineyard near Prosser and Wallula Vineyard on the Columbia River southeast of Finley. The partners have no plans to open a tasting room. The wine always has been made from Mid-Columbia grapes that are pressed in Washington, with the juice trucked to California. But about three years ago, Bonny Doon officials decided it would be better to produce and market the wine closer to where the grapes are harvested. The Den Hoeds plan to grow the grapes and produce the wine, while Pacific Rim officials will market the wines and provide the general manager and winemaking team. "I know that my gifts lie in producing quality grapes," Andy Den Hoed said. "This is the perfect fit for us, because they've done sales and marketing for more than 20 years." Den Hoed said he wants the Pacific Rim wines to be made as sustainably as possible from the vineyard to the table. The winery's grape waste will be composted, the winery's design includes many windows to cut down on power use, and the company will try to minimize its trucking. Den Hoed said he is glad to get into the winemaking business so he can assure his vineyard's quality grapes end up as quality wine. Nicolas Quille -- general manager of Bonny Doon and a former winemaker for Hogue Cellars in Prosser -- will manage the winery. The move to the Pacific Northwest is part of Bonny Doon's recent restructuring, he said. The winery laid off about 40 of its 100 employees in California, sold two of its largest labels -- Bonny Doon's Big House and Cardinal Zin -- and has cut production from 400,000 cases to 40,000 cases, he said. All the remaining wine for Bonny Doon will be made from estate vineyards, he added. The new winery is a dramatic investment in one grape variety, but riesling is on the rise, Quille said. Quille explained that wine sales have been increasing rapidly in the United States, riesling has proved a popular choice for pairing with a variety of foods and younger generations of wine connoisseurs are increasingly choosing riesling over chardonnay and white zinfandel. "The younger generation is picking up wine as their favorite beverage," he said. "They are also trying new things from all different countries." Although Pacific Rim would compete with some of Ste. Michelle's riesling wines that are in a similar price range, there appears to be room in the market for more of the popular white wine. "We sell everything we make," said Lynda Eller, Ste. Michelle spokeswoman. "We are really limited by the vines in the ground." Story By Anna King, Tri-City Herald Staff Writer

by Colleen Laneby Colleen Lane
The Lane Real Estate Team
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