RICHLAND, Wash. – A small Washington winery is stepping up in a big way to help ensure a strong future for the Washington wine industry.
Hamilton Cellars, a 2,000-case winery that focuses on Malbec, has pledged $100,000 to the Washington State University Wine Science Center, which will be built at the WSU Tri-Cities campus in Richland.
Stacie Hamilton, owner with her husband, Russ, and general manager of the winery, has been involved in fundraising efforts for the $23 million Wine Science Center for the past couple of years and was determined to make her mark.
“I’ve been asking others to donate, so I might as well put my money where my mouth is,” she told Great Northwest Wine.
Hamilton Cellars’ donation is among the largest from wineries. Hamilton said a longtime WSU benefactor is matching the donation, so it will equate to $200,000 toward the Wine Science Center.
Bleeding crimson and gray
Hamilton’s relationship with WSU is lengthy. Both she and her brother graduated from the university, as did their father and grandfather and her son. She also was an adjunct faculty member for several years, teaching accounting on the Richland campus.
“This is the largest contribution that we have ever made,” Hamilton said. “We believe this facility is critical to support the future growth of the Washington wine industry, and it will position the Tri-Cities and WSU as one of the top leading research and teaching programs in the world of wine.”
Hamilton earned a winemaking certificate through the University of California-Davis through a two-year online program. While UC-Davis is considered one of the top winemaking programs anywhere in the world, its focus is on California winemaking, which does not often translate to Washington, she said. Hamilton noted that during her studies at Davis, some of the material presented stated that Washington state was unsuitable for wine grape growing.
Hamilton’s winemaker, Charlie Hoppes, also is a graduate of UC-Davis.
The entire Washington wine industry already has pledged $7.4 million to the Wine Science Center, so this is an additional contribution from Hamilton Cellars.
“Hamilton Cellars is a small winery and vineyard owner, so this generous gift represents a huge statement of its leadership to WSU and to the continued growth of the Washington wine industry,” said Thomas Henick-Kling, director of WSU’s viticulture and enology program.
Hamilton Cellars a small, newer winery
Hamilton Cellars opened in 2011 in the Queensgate area of Richland, about a 10-minute drive from Red Mountain. The Hamiltons recently purchased a 10-acre cherry orchard on Red Mountain, and famed Yakima Valley grape grower Dick Boushey will plant it next spring.
Since its launch, Hamilton Cellars has focused on Malbec, one of the hottest, up-and-coming red grapes in the state. This year, the winery will be releasing a Malbec from Champoux Vineyards, the first vineyard-designated Malbec from that top vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. It also will release a reserve-level Malbec from Red Mountain grapes. This is in addition to its Columbia Valley Malbec, rosé of Malbec, a Malbec-based blend and a Malbec dessert wine.
“We loved Malbec from the first one we tried,” Hamilton said.
She is operates a wealth management company, and Russ is the chief technology officer for the world’s largest solar company and spends several months each year in China.