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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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State to lease Red Mountain acreage for wine complex

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review

BENTON CITY, Wash. – State officials have reached an agreement with a Washington state company to lease 404 acres of state land in south-central Washington for a winery complex.

The state Department of Natural Resources already has leased about 140 acres to four wineries on Red Mountain, a 4,040-acre federally recognized grape-growing region known for its red wines.

The latest lease calls for a vineyard and winery complex, where about a dozen small wineries will share crushing facilities but have independent barrel rooms and tasting rooms, said Duane Unland, DNR business development manager for the region.

The 55-year lease will be worth about $500,000 a year for the state school trust fund.

The name of the company was not released Monday. State and company officials were expected to sign the lease today at a ceremony in Olympia.

Red Mountain, a sagebrush-covered hill in the lower Yakima Valley increasingly dotted with vineyards, became the state’s fifth federally recognized wine appellation in 2001.

Today there are nine appellations in Washington state, but the Red Mountain area remains best known for its red wines: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, syrah, sangiovese, lemberger and malbec. Several wineries are already located there, including Hedges, Kiona and Terra Blanca. Some believe as many as 40 wineries could be producing there in the next decade.

Last year, one of Italy’s leading wine families joined forces with the Northwest’s largest wine company to open an $8 million winery there for its red wine blend, Col Solare. The opening marked the most significant international investment in the state’s wine industry.

Washington boasts more than 500 wineries and 31,000 acres of wine grapes. A new study says the industry contributed an estimated $3 billion to the state’s economy in 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available.

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