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
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
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.
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