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That personality obviously stands out in the Gordons’ wine. The Gordon Brothers 1998 Tradition, an estate blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah, won first place in a blind tasting of prestigious Washington, French, and Napa Valley wines this past March in San Francisco. Washington wines also took second (DeLille Cellars), third (Col Solare), and sixth (Quilceda Creek) places. Interestingly, even at $40, the Tradition was the least expensive of the first eight. The ’96 Mouton-Rothschild, which placed eighth, goes for $278 a bottle. Washington winemakers like to point out the good value of their wines.

Jeff is quick to note that the top three places were a dead heat. His point reflects an observation you hear a lot among wine people in Washington. They like each other. What they are about is not just Gordon Brothers wine or Woodward Canyon wine or Chateau Ste. Michelle wine, but Washington wine.

Walter Clore, 'Father of Washington Wine,' dies

Published Feb. 3, 2003

reprinted with permission
of Wine Press Northwest

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Dr. Walter Clore, the man known as the "Father of Washington Wine," passed away this morning.

He was 91.

Clore, who in 1972 predicted wine consumption would triple in the U.S. by 1999, died in a Yakima-area convalescent home. Considered the father of Washington wines, Clore came up with the idea of growing wine grapes in the Columbia Valley after arriving in Prosser soon after Prohibition was repealed.

Clore retired from the Washington State University Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Station in 1976, four years after he commented on the future of wine in this country at a chamber of commerce meeting. His involvement remained strong well into retirement. Last summer, he visited with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray when she toured the region's wine country.

Clore literally helped write the book on the Washington wine industry. In fact, The Wine Project, co-authored by Ron Irvine, serves as a biography of sorts for the man some view as the Johnny Appleseed of vinifera grapes in the state.

He spent 40 years at the Prosser Experiment Station. During his tenure, Clore, more than any other individual, is responsible for convincing Eastern Washington farmers they could grow world-class wine grapes.

Clore was born July 1, 1911, and grew up in Oklahoma during Prohibition and was raised a teetotaling Methodist. He came to Washington State College in 1934 on a $500 fellowship. In 1937, Clore was appointed assistant horticulturist. He was the third faculty member on staff at the center and began working with tree fruits and small fruits - including grapes.

One of Clore's primary contributions to the industry was figuring out where premium wine grapes could be grown in the state. He grew vinifera varieties throughout the state and collected volumes of data on how they fared.

He retired in 1976.

Soon after, the Washington wine industry began to grow in earnest and Clore began consulting. Stimson Lane Vineyards and Estates, which owns Columbia Crest and Chateau Ste. Michelle, sought Clore's advice. He pointed them to several sites that have turned out of be among best in the state, including Horse Heaven Hills and Cold Creek.

"The industry got a running start because he planted scores of varieties throughout the Columbia Valley and collected the data necessary for vintners to make reasonable decisions about where to site a vineyard or winery," said Ted Baseler, president of Stimson Lane. "Prior to that, many people decided it was a foregone conclusion that premium wine grapes could not be grown in Washington."

Last fall, Columbia Crest honored Clore by naming its Bordeaux-style red blend the Walter Clore Private Reserve.

It's an honor Clore, 91, appreciated on a couple of levels.

"I read in a recent Wine Spectator that Opus One earned a 93 point rating (out of 100) and was priced at $150," Clore said during an Oct. 16 ceremony at the Paterson, Wash., winery. "I also read that the Columbia Crest Walter Clore Reserve received a 92 rating and was priced at $30."

Several of those grape growers, along with Clore's friends and company officials, came out to help Columbia Crest and Clore toast the 1999 vintage. Special guests included George Carter - Clore's longtime assistant - and Les Fleming, pioneer Grandview winery and vineyard manager.

Doug Gore, vice president and head winemaker at Columbia Crest, said part of the honor includes naming the room where the reserve wine is aged as the Walter Clore Barrel Room.

"There are a lot of legends in the Washington wine industry, but it was Walter Clore who first dreamed it was possible," Gore said. "The modern-day legends are a validation that he was right."

Gore likes to tell the story about when he was a brand-new assistant winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle's Grandview winery and was told by his boss Kay Simon that if any grower comes to the back door wanting an analysis of their grapes to shoo them around to the front.

"There was this kindly looking gentleman who came to the back door wanting a sample run on some grapes, and I told him to go around front. However he was persistent, so I asked who he was and he told me, Walt Clore. I apologized for trying to get rid of him. That was the beginning of a long association with the man who I consider the Johnny Appleseed of Washington's wine grape industry," Gore said.

In the preface to The Wine Project, Clore wrote: "I grew up during Prohibition in a teetotaler, nonsmoking Methodist family. My mother was a staunch Women's Christian Temperance Union Member."

It was an interest aside to the man who grew up to be called the father of the Washington's wine industry, which today is vigorous, flourishing and much in debt to Clore's visionary research.

It was Clore, a horticulturist at WSU's Prosser research station, who was asked more than 40 years ago to look at the potential of growing vinifera wine grapes in Eastern Washington.

"I was intrigued and was given the research task of determine the best adaptable varieties for making premium wines," he said."This was not a difficult task, as I found the interest of co-workers high including not only those in Washington but Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia" he wrote.

Clore also helped develop the rare Lemberger red variety and found some willing disciples. One of these was Kiona Vineyards Winery in the Red Mountain AVA, which has made Lemberger for more than 20 vintages.

John Williams, who with grower Jim Holmes was one of the original partners at Kiona, said, "Dr. Clore was the man in the state's wine industry as far as I'm concerned. If it hadn't been for him, both Jim and I probably would not have gotten into making wine." I remember in the late 1970s when he called me saying that since Kiona was the only one interested in the Lemberger variety we would be first to get the plants released by WSU," Williams said.

Bob Woehler, longtime Tri-City Herald and Wine Press Northwest wine writer, whose association with Clore traces back to the 1970s, said, "His homespun dignity and overall nice-guy friendliness was as impressive as the knowledge he gave to the Washington wine industry.

"Interestingly, Dr. Clore's association with wine led to developing a taste for it himself despite his upbringing. He often liked to relate at gatherings that he got his mother eventually to try a sip or two," Woehler said.

James Zuiches, dean of WSU's College of Agriculture and Home Economics, said in a press release, "From my point of view, Walter Clore was a true pioneer in agricultural research. He took leadership without anyone telling him to, to evaluate wine grape varieties for Washington's environment. He laid the basis for a multimillion dollar industry. He was a role model for faculty and many people have benefitted from his research and extension work. He never lost his love for the industry. He didn't teach formally in a classroom, but he taught thousands of people through his publications, extension programs and training of students in field work."

Clore's death came as plans were being made to build a $6 million Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser.

In 1993, the WSU Foundation established the Walter J. Clore Scholarship Endowment to provide scholarships to full-time undergraduate students at WSU who are interested in studying grape production, processing or marketing.

Pioneer Walter Clore Helped Create
Washington Wine Industry

After graduating from WSU, Jeff Gordon worked for an agribusiness outfit, an experience that he found deadening, and which led the Gordons to look for land. Vicki recalls Jeff’s bringing her to the spot where their house now stands, even before the land was for sale. She was stunned by its beauty. When the land came available in 1979, they quickly worked out a deal and started planning.

Part of that planning involved a visit to the site by WSU horticulturist Walt Clore.

Forty years ago not everyone would have looked at the terroirs of Eastern Washington and seen wine. Walt Clore was among the few who did.

Though many call him the “father of Washington wine,” vines were planted in Washington long before Walt Clore was born. The first Vitis vinifera, the premium European vines, were probably planted by the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver in 1825. Around the same time, French trappers might have planted vinifera vines in the Walla Walla Valley. Other European settlers across the state undoubtedly brought their seeds or cuttings with them, unwilling to abandon their wine to memory.

But Washington did not see its first bonded winery until 1933, immediately following the repeal of Prohibition: St. Charles Winery on Puget Sound’s Stretch Island west of Tacoma. By 1938, Washington had 42 wineries. But most of the wines produced during this era were fortified, sweet dessert wines.

What Clore was able to do was assure Washington farmers that vinifera would grow in Washington. Without his revelations—and a little legal persuasion from California—the products of Washington’s wine industry would still be relegated—with some exceptions—to the same shelf as Mogen David and Wild Irish Rose. They certainly wouldn’t dominate the wine lists of restaurants such as New Orleans’s Dominique’s.

Walt Clore came to Washington State College in 1934, following the lure of a $500 fellowship and fleeing the Depression and a life in the Oklahoma oil refineries. Prohibition had been repealed six months earlier.

In 1937, Clore was appointed assistant horticulturist at WSU’s research center in Prosser, now called the Irrigated Agriculture Research Center. He was the third faculty member on staff at the center and began working with tree fruits and small fruits—including grapes.

Clore immediately started grape variety trials at Prosser. Over the years he tested 250 American, European, and hybrid grapes. He had the grapes. He had the ideas. He saw the potential. All he needed was a partner for his grand vision to reach fruition.

He had to wait 30 years after beginning his work in Prosser before that partner came along. Arriving in Pullman in 1960, Chas Nagel joined the science department as a microbiologist. Coming from the Napa Valley, where he grew up just down the street from Louis Martini and where his father sold grapes to the Napa Valley Coop, he knew a little about winemaking. So Clore asked him to help evaluate his grapes.

Nagel offered to make some wines and run a taste panel. Soon afterward, George Carter joined the team in Prosser as the winemaker. Consulting with Nagel, he would make the wines in Prosser, then send them up to Pullman for analysis.

“Folwell did the economics, Chas headed up the winemaking, and I grew the grapes,” says Clore.

All this led finally to Clore’s magnum opus. With Nagel and Carter, he published in 1976, the year he retired from WSU, the prosaically titled, Ten Years of Grape Variety Responses and Wine-Making Trials in Central Washington. The publication consists mostly of crop yields, analytical data, and taste panel results, meticulously compiled over the decade. But the message was clear:

If hardier varieties free of diseases are used and the best cultural practices known to obtain full vine maturity are followed, it is feasible to grow European grapes in favorable sites in south central Washington.

Is that poetry or not? Certainly it stirred the souls of eastern Washington farmers who had the foresight to realize that mankind cannot live by wheat—or apples—alone.

And obviously it was not Clore alone who bore the weight of the new industry. The history of wine in the state of Washington is intricate and fascinating. Readers wanting to know more might pick up Ron Irvine’s excellent The Wine Project: Washington State’s Winemaking History. Written with the help and memory of Clore, the book details a history that can only be glanced at in this article.

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Walter Clore honored with Special Wine

From the press release:

Columbia Crest Winery announces the introduction of its premier wine, “Walter Clore Private Reserve,” an artisan-style Bordeaux blend. The vintage 1999 wine is now available nationally for a suggested retail price of $30 per bottle. Just 2,000 cases of the blend were produced.

Winemaker Doug Gore said the new designation honors the pioneer who proved that premium wines could be produced from Washington-grown vinifera grapes.

“ There are a lot of legends in the Washington wine industry, but it was Walter Clore who first dreamed it was possible. The modern day legends are a validation that he was right.”

Walter Clore, PhD was a Washington State University (WSU) scientist who began planting grapes for research in 1937. He quickly became an advocate for grape growing in the Columbia Valley, although local growers were skeptical of his recommendations. Nearly 40 years later, Dr. Clore published, “Ten Years of Grape Variety Responses and Wine-making Trials in Central Washington.” The work ultimately convinced growers that varietal and site selection joined with the best viticultural practices could produce premium wines.

Theodor Baseler, President/CEO of Columbia Crest’s parent company Stimson Lane Vineyards & Estates, said that without Dr. Clore’s research, the Washington wine industry would have evolved much more slowly. Today, Washington state is ranked the second largest wine producing region with more than 200 wineries and 28,000 acres of vineyards, all planted to premium grape varieties.

“The industry got a running start because he planted scores of varieties throughout the Columbia Valley and collected the data necessary for vintners to make reasonable decisions about where to site a vineyard or winery,” Baseler said. “Prior to that, many people decided it was a foregone conclusion that premium wine grapes could not be grown in Washington state.”

Winemaker Gore said that Dr. Clore’s contributions to the Washington wine industry include guiding Columbia Crest through vineyard plantings and research projects. “His work laid the foundation for a seven-year irrigation trial that demonstrated that the precise timing of when and how much to water a vineyard would enhance wine quality. The results have been adopted by a majority of growers in Washington state.”

Columbia Crest’s parent company, Stimson Lane Vineyards and Estates also consulted with Dr. Clore before planting many of the company’s premier vineyards sites, including on the Horse Heaven Hills and Cold Creek. Outside Washington State, Dr. Clore’s research has been lauded by numerous national and international wine and grape organizations.

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