PROSSER, Wash. – It’s the type of event typically staged in downtown Seattle, but the inaugural Rising Stars tasting at the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center will be a delicious fit in the historic Yakima Valley.
On Friday night, the Clore Center in Prosser will stage a pouring by 40 up-and-coming Washington winemakers at the new Rising Stars. The forecast high temperature for that day in the cradle of the Washington wine industry is 93.
“We’re always looking ahead and thinking about our mission and try to be a supporter and cheerleader for Washington wine,” said Abbey Cameron, executive director for the Clore Center. “We took a look at what wine events are out there, and we didn’t see one there to help young wineries try to get a leg up and develop more fans and help them get a foothold in the critical early years. We feel this ties right into what our mission is.”
Cost is $30 for general admission, which runs 6-9 p.m. A VIP ticket is $40, which allows the ticket holder to enter at 5 p.m. Tickets are available online as well as at the Clore Center tasting room. Sales will be capped according to the number of logo glasses ordered.
40 wineries combine to pour 145 wines
The list of participating Rising Stars wineries includes:
2dor (Prosser), Aluvé (Walla Walla), Ancestry Cellars (Woodinville), Antolin Cellars (Yakima), Avennia (Woodinville) Bontzu Cellars (Walla Walla), Cairdeas (Chelan), Cedar Rivers Cellars (Renton), Co Dinn Cellars (Granger), COR Cellars (Lyle), Damsel Cellars (Brier), Eternal Wines (Walla Walla), Forsyth Family Vintners (Prosser), Golden Ridge Cellars (Walla Walla), J & J Vintners (Walla Walla), Kasia Winery (Woodinville), Kevin White (Seattle), Lagana Cellars (Walla Walla), Locus Wines (Seattle), Longship Cellars (Richland), Love That Red Winery (Redmond), Maloney Wine (Richland), Muret-Gaston (Benton City), Noviello Vineyards (Bellevue), Palencia Winery (Walla Walla), Parejas (Seattle), Pearl and Stone (North Bend), Rocky Pond Cellars (Orondo), Schlagel Santo (Pasco), Schooler Nolan Winery (Richland), Sol Stone Winery (Sammamish), The Walls Vineyards (Walla Walla), Three of Cups (Woodinville), Tricycle Cellars (Walla Walla), Truth Teller (Woodinville), Tucannon Cellars (Benton City), Upsidedown Wine (Richland), William Grassie Wine Estates (Fall City), Willow Wine Cellars (Underwood) and Wit Cellars (Prosser).
The 40 wineries were determined on a first-come, first-serve basis among those with a history of seven or fewer commercial vintages, Cameron said.
“We’d like to run this annually, have the wineries eligible to participate for a couple of years and then age them out,” she said. “And 40 was a good number for us. That will probably be about the max, unless we decide to use the pavilion in the future.”
Even though it is being staged in the Yakima Valley, the event definitely will have a Seattle flavor, thanks to catering by Tom Douglas Restaurants. Co-owner Jackie Cross, a Clore Center board member, also oversees the restaurant group’s farm in Prosser. Live music will be generated by Bent on Blues.
Each winery was asked to bring a minimum of two wines to pour. A number of them chose to offer samples of as many as five wines.
“We’ve left it completely up to the wineries,” Cameron said.
Wines available for purchase at Rising Stars
Sales is an important feature for the Rising Stars, and the Clore Center will make each of the 145 wines poured Friday available that night for guests to purchase and take home. Wineries are selling those wines at wholesale prices to the Clore Center, which facility’s team will offer at the winery’s retail price. That 30 percent margin will help the non-profit Clore Center.
The Clore Center have partnered with Washington Tasting Room magazine for Rising Stars, tapping into publishers John and Adean Vitale for help in reaching out to wineries and attracting the attention of wine lovers wanting to explore the Yakima Valley.
“We’re pleasantly surprised with the collection of wineries,” Cameron said. “We’ve got quite a few from Walla Walla and Woodinville, so this spans beyond the immediate valley, which is great.”
It also will help promote the Clore Center, which opened its tasting room in 2014 as a showcase for wines made in every corner of the Evergreen State. The showpiece facility along the Yakima River pours Washington wines daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s little more than a stone’s throw from Interstate 84 and Highway 22 – the road to the Horse Heaven Hills.
A longer stay for some Rising Stars wines
Many of the wines poured on a daily basis at the Clore Center go through a tasting panel, but wine program director April Reddout will be monitoring the popularity and sales during the Rising Stars.
“Some of these wines already are being featured this month, but there are some wineries coming here next week that I’ve never heard of so I will be shopping and tasting the wines,” Reddout said. “We want to feature these Rising Stars and hope the consumer will come to support these wines, too. It will be interesting to see what the consumers are focused on that night.”
A few years ago, staging Rising Stars during the last week of August wouldn’t have been an issue for winemakers, but a number of wineries already have brought in fruit from the 2016 vintage.
“We’ve encouraged the winemakers to be here, but we also recognize that we are getting into harvest,” Cameron said. “If the winemakers or a principal can’t be here, then they are sending someone from their team who is passionate about their brand. A lot of the wineries are sending their winemaker.”
Rising Stars was an easy sell to the Clore Center’s board of directors, which includes industry luminaries such as Doug Gore of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, growers Art den Hoed and Mike Hogue, and Gordy Venneri of Walla Walla Vintners. The board president is Robert Stevens, a retired Washington State University researcher.
“It means extra work for us, but we want to help these wineries sell their wines and sign up wine club members and hopefully get some of them to go back to their tasting rooms,” Cameron said. “That’s the goal.”