Washington winemaker opens tasting room in West Richland
By Andy Perdue
One of Washington’s top winemakers has consolidated his operations in the Tri-City area.
Victor Palencia, owner of Palencia Winery and Vino La Monarcha, recently closed his Walla Walla operation to focus on a tasting room and winemaking facility in downtown Kennewick and a new tasting room in West Richland.
Palencia, who was born in Mexico and grew up in Prosser, attended Walla Walla Community College, where he earned a winemaking degree before returning to Prosser, where he took over winemaking duties at Willow Crest Winery. He later went on to become head winemaker for J&S Crushing in Mattawa, where he was head winemaker for Jones of Washington, a Quincy-based winery.
With a day job in Mattawa and his own business based in Walla Walla, Palencia was a bit of a road warrior, living in Richland. With his main operation at the new Columbia Gardens Urban Wine and Artisan Village in downtown Kennewick, which he opened a year ago, he’s now opened a second location, taking over the former Black Heron Spirits tasting room at 8011 Keene Road in West Richland.
Black Heron Spirits was opened in 2010 by Joel Tefft, a former Yakima Valley winemaker who operated Tefft Cellars in the town of Outlook, until deciding to get in the emerging field of distilling, opening up on the back side of Red Mountain. In 2013, he sold the distillery to Mark Williams. In addition to his award-winning spirits, Williams makes a bit of wine under his Sugar Horse Cellars brand.
Black Heron will continue to operate a tasting room in the distillery space by appointment only.
Palencia is branding the new place as Bodega Palencia. He will put all of his Spanish variety wines, including his Tempranillo, Grenache and Albariño under this label. He also plans to add wines to the label, focusing on varieties found in Europe’s Iberian Peninsula, which includes Spain and Portugal.
Palencia launched his own company in 2013, settling into a building at the Walla Walla airport meant for emerging wineries. However, the incubator requires wineries to move out in six years. With his move to West Richland, he has left Walla Walla behind. With his reduced role as a consultant at J&S Crushing, his commute now is limited to the Tri-Cities, a change he welcomes.
This has been a big year for Palencia. This spring, his company was named 2019 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest magazine.
While he was operating in tight quarters in Walla Walla, at about 1,600 square feet, he’s able to stretch out in the Tri-Cities, with more than 4,500 square feet in Kennewick, which includes a production and tasting room. In West Richland, he has upward of 1,600 square feet, primarily in the tasting room, as production all takes place in Kennewick.
The best part, Palencia says, is additional room for his visitors.
“I love hospitality, and I was not able to have seating for my customers and really host them the way I wanted to until now. It’s really, really amazing. It’s a good feeling,” he said.
He not only wants to have tasting room visitors sit instead of leaning up against a tasting bar, but to offer food service. At Bodega Palencia, he is considering serving tapas-style foods that will highlight the Spanish-style wines he features.
With two other wineries within a distance of about one football field, Pacific Rim and Double Canyon, along with a dozen tasting rooms around the corner on Red Mountain, there should be plenty of traffic to Palencia’s new location.
A wine from a west-side winemaker using Mid-Columbia grapes won best in show at the annual Washington State Wine Competition. Amelia Wynn Winery’s 2016 Aragón Red Wine, a $40 Grenache using grapes from the Horse Heaven Hills south of the Yakima Valley, took top honors. Amelia Wynn is a small producer on Bainbridge Island, west of downtown Seattle. The judging, which dates to the early ’80s, is operated by Great Northwest Wine, a media company based in Kennewick. The competition also funds a scholarship for winemaking students at Yakima Valley College.
A red blend from a top winery from the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley took top honors at the seventh annual Walla Walla Wine Competition. Zerba Cellars’ 2016 Estate Wild Z Red Wine was the winner of the judging, which took place in June at Walla Walla Community College. The merlot-based blend retails for $24. The judging, conducted by Great Northwest Wine, helps raise scholarship dollars for winemaking students at Walla Walla Community College.
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Woodinville, the largest wine producer in the Pacific Northwest, is spending $1.4 million on commercial construction for new concrete pads for fermentation tanks at Columbia Crest winery near Paterson in Benton County.
Andy Perdue, founding editor of Wine Press Northwest magazine, is the wine columnist for The Seattle Times.