Ste. Michelle Wine Estates planning Prosser winery

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 5, 2013 

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Washington's largest wine producer, plans to open a new Prosser winery dedicated to its growing 14 Hands brand by this fall.

It's apropos to open a 14 Hands winery at the base of the Horse Heaven Hills because the name refers to the "14 hands" tall wild horses that used to live in the hills, said Erin Shane, communications manager for Ste. Michelle.

Ste. Michelle plans to completely renovate the former Snoqualmie winery at 660 Frontier Road, she said.

The production of Snoqualmie wines will move to Paterson, and those wines will be available at the Columbia Crest retail shop in Paterson.

The new 14 Hands winery will feature barn wood, stone and earth tones. It will offer a tasting bar, lounge and barrel room.

A building permit has not yet been submitted, but construction is expected to begin in the next few months, she said.

"The performance of 14 Hands has been nothing short of remarkable," Ted Baseler, president and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, said in a news release. "Since its initial introduction in 2005, we have watched 14 Hands evolve into a Washington powerhouse and the fastest growing wine brand to reach 1 million cases sold in the history of the Washington wine industry."

The brand shipped more than 1 million cases of wine nationwide in 2012, which was 32 percent more than the year before, Shane said. It is exported to 24 countries.

"We are excited to respond to consumer demand by creating a unique 14 Hands winery destination," Baseler added.

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, which is headquartered in Woodinville, has 10 brands in Washington, one in Oregon, four in California and partnerships with 13 others, including Dr. Loosen of Germany.

Consumers seem to like the rich bold reds and crisp juicy whites featured among 14 Hands wines, Shane said.

"The price is right too," she added.

The suggested retail price for the Hot to Trot Red Blend and Hot to Trot White Blend is $10. The suggested retail price for 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Gris is $12.

The Hot to Trot red blend has been the top-selling wine in Seattle and Portland since mid-2011, according to the company.

The wines can be found at Tri-City restaurants like Casa Mia and Kimo's Sports Bar and at area grocery stores like Yoke's Fresh Markets, Fred Meyer, Albertsons and WinCo Foods.

The brand also introduced reserve wines made with grapes from the Horse Heaven Hills in August, Shane said. The reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and red blend are available only online, for $30 a bottle.

"Customers love them," she said.

Shane said production of 14 Hands wines will be transitioned to the new facility, but the current Paterson production site will continue to offer support.

Winemaker Keith Kenison will continue making 14 Hands wines, Shane said. He became the winemaker for 14 Hands in 2002 and has been making Washington wines for more than 15 years.

The grapes for 14 Hands come from vineyards in the Columbia Valley, she said.

There are no plans to add jobs at this time, Shane said.

Ste. Michelle owns Washington wineries such as Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, Snoqualmie, Northstar and Spring Valley. It also co-owns Col Solare on Red Mountain with Italy's Antinori family.

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