Palencia Wine Co. of Walla Walla and Bartholomew Winery of Seattle will both make Kennewick their headquarters after being selected to move into Columbia Gardens Urban Wine and Artisan Village.
Last week, the Port of Kennewick Commission gave preliminary approval to lease space to the two wineries at Columbia Gardens, its $6 million economic development project under construction at 421 E. Columbia Drive., near the cable bridge.
The move allows port staff to negotiate formal leases with Palencia and Bartholomew. The port solicited applications from wineries throughout the Northwest and received three.
Palencia, the private label of Victor Palencia of J&S Crushing in Mattawa, and Bartholomew, led by Bart Fawbush, were selected after both committed to making Columbia Gardens their primary production centers as well as their operational headquarters.
The selection committee said the third candidate wanted to open a tasting room, which would not have taken advantage of the City of Kennewick’s investment in a treatment system to neutralize wine effluent before it enters the city’s sewer system.
Palencia, born in Michoacan, Mexico, is a U.S. citizen who grew up around agriculture in Prosser, where he helped his father, a farmworker. He studied wine making at Walla Walla Community College’s Institute for Enology & Viticulture and was among the first to enroll in a hands-on program where students tend vines for College Cellars.
He worked for some of the region’s best-known wineries and won the notice of the New York Times, which profiled the then 20-year-old winemaker in an Oct. 19, 2005 feature, “A Vineyard Prodigy Too Young To Drink.”
He is the wine maker for J&S’s Jones of Washington label and opened Palencia Wine Co. in 2013 as his personal label.
For Bart Fawbush, owner and winemaker at Bartholomew Winery, landing one of the two spots at Columbia Gardens is a dream come true. Two years ago, Fawbush said he sat down with his wife, Chona, and their young son to make plans for the family’s future and winery.
The Fawbushes concluded they wanted to move to Eastern Washington to live in smaller communities and to develop a new audience for with winery’s Bordeaux . They gave themselves a summer of 2017 deadline, since that would be the summer when son Jackson transitioned to high school.
The Fawbushes evaluated various options and decided the Columbia Gardens, mixing production, storage and tasting room space in a picturesque setting near the Columbia River, was the right mix. Fawbush said he’s thrilled to be selected and is ready to sign a five-year lease for one of the two production spaces.
The winery produces several thousand cases a year in West Seattle and operates a tasting room at the former Rainier Brewery just south of downtown. It will keep the tasting room but move production to Kennewick.
“This is a big day for us,” Fawbush said.
The first phase of Columbia Gardens includes the two spaces for production and tasting rooms and a third for barrel storage for the tenants.
The City of Kennewick is supporting the effort by installing new sidewalks and other improvements and the effluent treatment system that allows for wine production. The city and port hope to transform the industrial stretch of Columbia Drive between the blue and cable bridge into a river-oriented visitor destination.
Banlin Construction is constructing the three-building project. The buildings are expected to be ready for Palencia and Bartholomew in time to open before the 2017 fall crush.
Additional phases will bring more space for tasting rooms, restaurants and other visitor amenities. Columbia Basin College intends to construct a culinary education center at Columbia Gardens as well, its first venture into Kennewick. The college is giving itself four years to raise the $10 million cost to construct the 20,000-square-foot school building. Last week, the port commission agreed to fast-track the culinary center phase.