The region’s wine leaders realized several years ago that an investment in students and research would ultimately lead to a more lucrative statewide industry.
The students have come and the research is underway with the opening of the Washington State University Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Wine Science Center in Richland.
“Industry leaders said, ‘We have more than 900 wineries in the state, we need qualified people to work in our vineyards and wineries, and we need research,’ ” said Kaury Balcom, WSU public relations and communications coordinator for the viticulture and enology program.
The center opened in 2015, thanks to more than $23 million in industry funding, Balcom said. Every worldwide wine area has a university for research, so it was a necessary and natural step, with Washington being the second largest premium wine producer and largest grape producer in the nation, she said.
The 40,000-square-foot wine center in north Richland provides viticulture and enology professionals with a teaching winery, research laboratories, classrooms and meeting spaces.