Wine news

Latest ‘hiccup’ won’t slow Kennewick’s new wine village

Two wineries are making themselves at home in downtown Kennewick despite an unanticipated “hiccup” involving a highly touted effluent treatment system meant to handle their wastewater.

Bartholomew Winery, led by Bart Fawbush, began operating at Columbia Gardens Urban Wine and Artisan Village in November. Monarcha Winery, led by Victor Palencia, is expected to move in and begin operations by the time the Port of Kennewick holds grand opening ceremonies on Feb. 9.

Both wineries will produce wine at Columbia Gardens, making them more than just tasting rooms at the edge of the Columbia River and Duffy’s Pond.

To that end, the wineries are relying on the city of Kennewick to install a pre-treatment system to handle wine-related effluent. Wastewater from wine processing has to be neutralized or it can overwhelm municipal treatment systems.

The city’s support for the project includes a $600,000 pretreatment system that will eventually support production of up to 50,000 cases of wine annually. The system is a key selling point for Columbia Gardens because it means its winery tenants won’t have to interact with the state Department of Ecology about the quality of the water they discharge.

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But it won’t be operational before the two wineries begin producing wine.

The city is missing a key valve it needs to complete the system. The valve was inadvertently left off the list of materials that needed to be ordered in advance.

The oversight shouldn’t affect either Bartholomew or Monarcha, said Larry Petersen, the port’s director of planning and development, told the commission this week. The wineries can operate normally and the city will manually pump the tank until the effluent system is working, probably in late February.

“These things happen,” Petersen said. “The tenants will have no concerns.”

The effluent snafu is the latest in a series of hiccups the port has had to overcome as it works to spark redevelopment along the an industrial stretch of East Columbia Drive, just west of the cable bridge.

The wine village is the first in a series of projects that will eventually create a wine- and food-centered complex that includes food carts, a culinary school operated by Columbia Basin College and pop up retailers.

The first hiccup happened when the port initially solicited bids. There were 10 bidders, but they were all well above the port’s estimate, prompting it to reject them.

The port and its architect, Terence Thornhill, revised the designs, and the project eventually was awarded to Kennewick-based Banlin Construction, which offered to build the initial three building for $3.4 million.

Banlin fell behind through no fault of its own in early 2017, when an unusually brutal winter gripped the Mid-Columbia, stalling construction projects throughout the region. The delay pushed the project back only a few weeks, but those few weeks meant the two tenants couldn’t begin actually producing wine in Kennewick last fall.

Fawbush, for one, brushed it off. He’d planned to handle harvest production in Kennewick last fall but extended his lease in Seattle when the opening window changed.

“Mother Nature just got in the way,” he said at the time.

The snow didn’t just delay the project. It collapsed an empty port-owned building on the property. The building at 211 E. Columbia Drive collapsed exactly one year ago.

The port parlayed that hiccup into a $910,000 insurance settlement from the Cities Insurance Association of Washington. It is using the insurance money to develop a fourth building at Columbia Gardens, a 2,500-square-foot addition set to begin construction this fall.

In July, it was the city’s turn to reject a bid when only one firm was willing to develop the effluent system. Like the port, it rejected the bid and re-advertised the project.

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