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The History of Washington Wine in Yakima Valley

The History of Washington Wine in Yakima Valley

When you visit the Yakima Valley, you will be greeted with rolling vistas of endless vineyards, stretching across the hillsides.  You’ll also find over 100 wineries that serving wine from over 40 varieties of grapes. But you might be surprised to know that the development of Yakima Valley’s wine industry is based on the work of one man: Dr. Walter Clore, known as the “Father of Washington Wine.”

Dr. Clore spendt much of his life testing and evaluating more than 250 different American, European and Hybrid varietals in order to find the best wine producing viniferous grapes that would thrive in Central Washington’s climate. He was determined to find the grapes that would grow and produce the extraordinary wines the Yakima Valley would one day be known for. The growth of our wine industry has been phenomenal since his discovery: from only 17 wineries in Washington State in the early 80’s, to over 900 that we now enjoy. And thanks to Dr. Clore’s efforts, Central Washington is the source of 98% of all the wine grapes that are grown in Washington State.

The Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser was established as a tribute to Dr. Clore, as well as an educational experience for visitors to learn the history of wine grape growing in our region. At the Clore Center, you have a chance to taste wines from a different Washington State American Viticulture Area (AVA’s) each month. There are 13 AVA’s in Washington State, with six AVA’s in and around the Yakima Valley. Each of these AVA’s are different sizes and have differing terroir (soil characteristics), which are uniquely expressed in the wines made in the different regions.

During the month of February, the Clore Center will be showcasing wines from the Rattlesnake Hills AVA.  As you sip, savor the small menu plates they have available every day, or enjoy the expanded menu, which is available Thursday, Friday, and Saturday created by Ethos Trattoria.

For anyone who wants a special opportunity to meet local winemakers and learn more about Washington State’s wine, make sure and attend the History through the Vines  event, a special evening that celebrates 40 years of grape harvests.  Four industry pioneers will share their stories, memories, and milestones while you savor a four course meal and wine pairing. This event is offered in partnership with Andy Purdue and Great Northwest Wine.  

The Walter Clore Center also features regularly scheduled special wine tastings and events, and is also available as a rental space, so make sure and take time for a  visit whenever you’re in the Yakima Valley.