A year after the Port of Kennewick announced that Monarcha Wines and Bartholomew Winery would be tenants in the new Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village on Columbia Drive in Kennewick, both tasting rooms are poised to open soon.
“It looks and smells like a winery, but there’s no wine in here yet; we’re still in the permitting process,” said Victor Palencia, owner of Palencia Wine Co., a sister company to Monarcha Wines.
The Port of Kennewick’s wine village has been a decade in the making and part of a bigger vision for a vibrant riverfront wine village.
The two wineries have to acquire permits from the federal Tax Trade Bureau and the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board before they can begin serving customers.
Bart Fawbush, owner of Bartholomew Winery, is awaiting final approval from the state liquor board. He plans to open before Christmas.
“Within the next week, week and a half,” he said on Dec. 5.
As a new licensee, Palencia is planning a grand opening for Valentine’s Day weekend, featuring new rosés, though he hopes to first open to the public earlier in February.
Palencia, who is recognized as a top winemaker in the state, has been crafting wines since he was 15 and currently operates out of Walla Walla.
“I am looking forward to embracing (the Tri-City) community and offering a place to hang out and learn about wine,” he said.
He said Monarcha has been fun to grow with. “It’s a tribute to the monarch (butterfly) and represents the diversity of the Tri-Cities community … the wings represent letting your dreams take flight, that they can happen.”
Palencia is proud his grapes are 100 percent grown in Washington. “They are produced to compete with global regions,” he said.
In addition to Monarcha’s tasting room, the facility also offers a space that will serve as part wine storage, part event space. “We’re making wine country a lifestyle,” Palencia said. He plans to offer salsa and bachata dancing, wine classes and live music via a moveable stage that can be backed up to a rolling bay door.
The facility offers an upstairs loft, which overlooks both the tasting room and event area.
“We are excited to bring wines that are both affordable and enjoyable,” Palencia said. He also noted that more wines will be introduced as Monarcha becomes established.
Fawbush is relocating the Bartholomew Winery operation to Columbia Gardens from where he started in Seattle’s South of Downtown district, known as SoDo, just over a decade ago. A tasting room will continue to operate in the historic Rainier Beer brewery building.
Fawbush and his family decided to make the move after learning about Columbia Gardens in 2015. His son is a freshman in high school this year, so the timing and the opportunity were perfect, he said.
Fawbush reported 95 percent of his equipment, wine and barrels are in place. “I feel at home already,” he said. “Now it’s time to get the tasting room set up and functional.”
Bartholomew mostly produces red wines, but some whites as well. Fawbush said the winery is one of the only producers of Tannat wines in the state, making about 100 cases a year. “We’re already sold out,” he said.
Fawbush invites customers to “taste the unexpected,” such as one of their most popular wines, which is a rosé made out of Carménѐre grapes.
“People don’t understand how hard it is to be a winery, especially on a small scale,” he said. “We only have one chance to make wine per year … the grapes are only ripe once. I might only have 20 to 25 opportunities to make wine in my lifetime, and Mother Nature provides different challenges each time around.”
Fawbush said the community has been fantastic so far. Past experience has informed him that “you meet some of the most awesome people coming through your tasting room.”
The port began buying property along Columbia Drive in 2007 and demolished seven structures in 2015 to clear the way for the village. One of the structures was in the old Cable Greens property next to the cable bridge and six were in the Columbia Gardens redevelopment property.
The port launched a marketing campaign to attract boutique wine production operators to the wine village.
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