By Katie Harris
After six years of winemaking, Paul and Vickie Kitzke have opened a new tasting room adjacent to their home off Dallas Road in Richland.
The couple, owners of Kitzke Cellars, converted their two-car garage to an elegant tasting room after determining they needed a retail outlet for their wine.
The boutique winery’s opening weekend in mid-April went very well, Vickie Kitzke said, attracting a number of visitors.
Although wine production facilities are located in Grandview, the Kitzkes keep most of their other operations close to home.
“We’re all about family,” Vickie Kitzke said.
Their 2006 Columbia Valley Red Table Wine “Upsidedown” label was designed in honor of their son, Seth, a dedicated snowboarder. Kitzke Cellars’ Columbia Valley Janaina Sensação Red was named for their youngest daughter, who was adopted from Brazil.
Nathan, the oldest son, even helped his parents install tile in the new tasting room, Vickie Kitzke said.
The Kitzkes decided to convert the garage into the tasting room since they were already remodeling the rest of their 44-year-old home. The garage had access to water and septic and none of the vines that surround the house would have to be torn out for a new building.
Out of consideration for neighbors and because of the small parking area, Kitzke Cellars can only accommodate small groups.
Vickie Kitzke said they will open their porch to visitors and plan to build a pergola in the future to take advantage of the beautiful view from their home.
But the wine is the main attraction.
One of Kitzke Cellars’ best-selling wines is the 2007 Columbia Valley Cabernet Franc, which costs $26. The winery also features a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2007 Syrah, which won a silver medal and a bronze medal, respectively, at the 2010 Tri-Cities Wine Festival.
This year, Kitzke Cellars will have a limited release of its 2008 Nebbiolo and its 2008 Sangiovese.
The winery sells about 400 cases each year and until now Kitzke wines could be purchased only at local Albertsons and Yoke’s grocery stores and a few stores in Moses Lake, Seattle, Spokane and Wenatchee.
“We knew we needed a retail outlet,” Paul Kitzke said. “It’s hard to establish yourself. There’s a lot of wineries in the area.”
Paul Kitzke brought his wife to Benton City in 1980 to help out on his family’s apple and cherry orchards.
In 1998, they auctioned the majority of the farm and kept 12 acres of cherry trees. Since then, they have gradually replaced the trees with wine grapes.
The Kitzkes moved to their current home between Badger and Candy mountains in 2001, where they made the same transition from cherries to grapes. They now have about two acres of wine grape vines there.
The fractured basalt is more conducive to grapes than it was to thirsty cherry trees, Paul Kitzke said.
“It’s great ground for grapes,” he said. “They have to struggle.”
The family began the business of growing grapes simply to sell them to local wineries and later realized they wanted to do more.
“It’s sure a lot more fun than cherries and apples,” Paul Kitzke said.
But winemaking isn’t easy, he said. It takes a lot of patience—patience for new vines to grow and patience for wines to mature.
That’s probably why his agricultural background helped the family business evolve to winemaking.
“Naturally this comes next,” Vickie Kitzke said. “We love working on the land.”
Paul Kitzke said the Tri-Cities is only beginning to discover its potential as a grape growing and winemaking region.
“We grow quality wine up here,” he said. “It’s just going to get better.”
More wine is being consumed now in the United States than any other nation, he said, and younger people are drinking it. Wine shipments from American and foreign producers into the country totaled 330 million cases in 2010, according to wine consultants Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates.
Vickie Kitzke said she has enjoyed meeting and building a rapport with the visitors who come to Kitzke Cellars.
During the past year, she gained tasting room experience working part-time at Gamache Vintners.
The two plan to continue creating new wines and working at the tasting room after Paul retires from his job at Boise Cascade.
“Hopefully the kids will keep it going,” Vickie Kitzke said.
The tasting room is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday or by appointment. It can be found just off Dallas Road before Goose Ridge at 72308 E. 260 Private Rd. NE in Richland.
Call 628-9442 or visit www.kitzkecellars.com for more information.