The growth at Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard & Winery is quickly apparent to drivers near the crossroads of interstates 82 and 182 because a large building rises alongside the current processing facility at the corporate headquarters on East Jacobs Road near Benton City.
The scope of the growth is even more visible through the immense, new high-capacity tanks and racks upon racks of wine barrels.
The new building will be 28,000 square feet when finished, big enough to accommodate two bottling lines and about 6,500 wine barrels. Goose Ridge currently has one bottling line. The expansion means the estate winery can fill up to 90 bottles a minute, ideal for its small batches.
“It allows us to be very versatile so we can be bottling two different things, since we do small lots, in one shot,” said Bob Gates, Goose Ridge controller.
The bottling line is expected to be operational by Sept. 1. Construction began at the end of May. Conner Construction holds the contract for the $1.7 million project.
The expansion was planned about a year ago to add capacity for barrel space and five large tanks, each holding 75,000 gallons of juice, stored prior to barreling as the product is on its way to becoming wine. The on-site capacity for juice will swell to 3.6 million gallons.
Goose Ridge also has tapped into the growing canned wine market. Looking to capitalize on the outdoorsy lifestyle enjoyed by both its family members and customers, a new line named Cascadian Outfitters features wine in standard 12-ounce aluminum cans, amounting to half-bottle of wine, or about two glasses.
“We’re the first Washington winery to put 100 percent estate fruit in a can,” said Taylor Monson, Pacific Northwest account sales manager. “It’s all sourced from Goose Ridge Winery, making it all Columbia Valley juice.”
With the slogan, “Adventure in a can,” the whimsical labels for Cascadian Outfitters feature an image of a Sasquatch holding a wine glass in one hand and a wine bottle in the other. It’s marketed as the “can-do” option to fit into active lifestyles, especially for people spending time outside who don’t want to lug a bottle, wine glasses and opener, or compromise quality typical of canned wine.
The cans from Cascadian Outfitters have scored a minimum of 87 points from Wine Enthusiast, with its rosé named a “best buy” from the industry magazine. The line also includes a Chardonnay and red wine blend. Single cans retail for $4.99 each and can be found at Mid-Columbia Wine and Spirits, Yoke’s Fresh Market and the Goose Ridge tasting rooms, which exclusively offers them in six-packs.
The cans are bottled at the processing facility near Benton City, built in 2008, and surrounded by thousands of acres of vineyards in the area between Candy and Badger mountains known as Goose Gap.
“Everything Goose Ridge is done on-site. From start to finish, growing the grapes here at our vineyard, to bringing it into this facility, making the wines, and putting the package together, either bottling or canning,” said Molly Stutesman, Goose Ridge vice president.
Of the grapes grown on the family’s vineyards, 15 percent are destined for Goose Ridge wines, with the other 85 percent contracted for other wineries.
Stutesman said it is the largest contiguous vineyard in the state of Washington, with about 2,200 planted acres, and “significantly” larger than the entire combined American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, of both Walla Walla and Red Mountain.
Goose Ridge has applied for Goose Gap to be named its own AVA, a designation granted by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The process began last fall and is expected to take up to two years. If successful, Goose Gap would be a sub-AVA of the Columbia Valley.
The family-owned winery has been growing grapes in the region for about 20 years, but has a long history of agriculture, including grapes, apples, cherries and raising cattle.
Now with its fourth generation working in the family business, Goose Ridge has expanded its wine footprint with four tasting rooms spread across the state. These include the Richland location on Dallas Road, as well as Woodinville, Leavenworth and, most recently, Walla Walla. Besides wine in bottles and cans, the winery also sells ciders that can be taken home in growlers.
The new bottling line, set to be established by late summer, is expected to result in five new jobs at the processing facility.
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