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John Williams and Jim Holmes Editorial

February 20th, 1988

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I would like to point out just how accurate they were in projecting future growth of our region's wine industry.  

"Kiona Vineyards Winery is a Tri-City operation that is winning some of the most prestigious awards in the country.

Recently Kiona won three top medals at the Grand National Wine Competition, an event limited to wines having won at least a silver medal in other competition during the last year.

Kiona’s sweep is akin to winning the Superbowl or making the Olympics team. 

Previous awards Kiona received were from international class tastings in London, New York, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco and Reno, as well as the major events in Washington state. 

In addition, the wines of Kiona have been given high praise in wine publications in the 15 states where the wines are sold. 

Present capacity is 10,000 cases per year, which makes Kiona a medium-sized winery in Washington, but quite small compared to many California producers.

The initial vintage in 1980 was only 400 cases.

While sales growth has been dramatic to this point, only a modest, demand-driven expansion is planned for the future. Kiona’s ambition is to be one of the world’s best wineries, not the biggest. 

The national recognition attained in 1987 suggests the goal is within reach. 

The partnership operation was started in 1972 before the recent Washington wine expansion and on the leading edge of the California wine boom.

A longtime interest in wines by the partners, coupled with research done at WSU’s Prosser agricultural center, formed the incentive to begin. After considerable study, site analysis, and consultation with experts, laced with some good luck, a vineyard site on a remote plateau above the Yakima River on the south flank of Red Mountain was selected. 

That previously unfarmed (sic) area has become known as one of the state’s best vineyard locations and has attracted two other wineries and five other vineyards as a result of Kiona’s pioneering work. Two additional wineries are in the planning stage. 

The first Kiona vineyard section was planted in 1975 after the development of needed vehicle access, irrigation water and electricity. 

At the outset, there were no firm customers for the grapes. Few wineries were in operation, and all had good suppliers. 

Fortunately, by the time the first crop was ready in 1978, new wineries in Oregon and Washington needed grapes. One of these was Preston Wine Cellars of Pasco, which became the major grape customer until 1983 when most Kiona grapes were crushed to meet “in-house” needs. 

Also during this period, other long-term customers were served, including some of the most successful in the state. 

Only Quilceda Creek of Snohomish has been allowed to continue as a regular grape customer, although excess grapes may be sold to hobby winemakers or other commercial wineries when available. 

The wines are fermented in a converted garage at Holmes’ residence and are aged and bottled in a basement at Williams home located at the vineyard. 

The winey and vineyard operation is being managed on a full-time basis by Scott Williams under the technical direction of the partners — both employed by the Westinghouse Hanford Company. 

Ann Williams and Pat Holmes provide support to retail sales activities and meeting government requirements. 

The winery is located off Highway 224 between West Richland and Benton City. Take VanGiesen from Richland or the I-82 exit 96 at Benton City to 224. Tasting room hours are 12-5 daily. 

Financing the operation has been from grape and wine sales, personal savings, and agricultural lending agencies. 

Presently, the operation is making a good return on the original investment, with revenues being applied to debt reduction and plant improvements. 

As to the future of the wine industry, Washington has a great potential. The combination of grape quality and productivity are clearly the best in the world. 

Appropriate growing sites are abundant throughout the Columbia Valley, which, if developed, would outstrip even California’s production. 

The state now has a number of relatively large wineries and many more small wineries. 

Considering the need for additional jobs in the Tri-Cities, perhaps TRIDEC or other industrial advocates could catalyze formation of a truly large winery in the Tri-Cities. 

Scoping calculations suggest that an operation generating gross revenues in the $300 million range could be put together with an investment of similar magnitude and provide an excellent return to investors. 

Combining the regions’ wine quality with national advertising would essentially guarantee success and provide a large measure of economic diversification. 

Any takers out there?”