Washington Wine Science Center Poised As Pivotal Facility

Western Ag Vignettes

Other states are starting to get on board.

Published on: September 24, 2013

In what has become a Pacific Coast wine industry project, Washington State University’s new Wine Science Center, which broke ground last week in Richland, has caught the eye even of those crafty California viticulture/enology interests.

A decision by the Boswell Family Foundation to donate $250,000 to the effort brings California into the project with the money funded on behalf of Boswell barrel production firms.

This makes the project far more than a simple Washington concept, although most of the research done at the $23 million facility will focus on Pacific Northwest wine and winery needs.

What the new WSU outfit means is another flower in the university’s already full wine industry research bouquet, and helps bring wider focus to the burgeoning business of producing wine grapes and making them into wine in the PNW.

Wine is certainly a bright spot in the ag economy of the West, poised as an industry which did not seem to sustain much sales momentum loss even through the economic downturn, although some less expensive choices did displace pricier selections.

Perhaps people need their alcohol to sooth their financial frustrations.

That’s all good for the industry, which has been leaping and bounding in sales along the entire U.S. Pacific Coast, led mightily by California.

While concerns remain over drunks who drive and kill or hurt people, I know of no study that reveals whether it was wine, beer or hard liquor that the culprits had imbibed.

Other than the shadowy hints some believe that wine helps trigger mental balance in these harrowing times, there are also the real studies that show a little of it is good for your health otherwise.

Does make you feel fine, I know.

Wine is perhaps ag’s crown prince crop, with farmers who grow the grapes more apt to be driving a Lexus sedan instead of a Chevy pickup, and wearing some nice L.L. Bean duds rather than Wrangler pants to producer meetings.

And, they talk different from the guy with 2,000 acres of wheat. There is that little edge of elitism that permeates the industry, perhaps because they interface with snootier buyers than the grain guys.

Ever have a wheat farmer talk about the nose or the aroma of his crop? He’d probably be tossed off the top of the elevator.

To be clear, I am having fun here with the wine bunch, and declare that I have nothing but the highest respect for them as professional producers, even if they get so excited over a new label that they hyperventilate.

Idea: Let’s come up with vintage winter wheat, or how about fresh broccoli with a hint of oak?

Those wine guys have it all together when it comes to market hype, perhaps because their customers are all eagerly waiting at the local bottle store for that highly-promoted new 2008 Pinot they’ve read about in the wine mags.

Not too many people standing around the bread counter at Safeway for the new 2014 loaf of 12-grain.

Milk could take a hint from wine, too, when it comes to jazzy names like Loon Lake Creamery Moomerlot 2%, or a Cowbernet cream.

Why should winegrape producers have all the fun?