We tell people that opening this winery has been like birthing a baby - a very big baby who doesn't want to be born!
Our winery dream began on a beautiful spring day in 2006. We shared a passion for wine and spent much of our free time visiting wineries. We were at a winery, standing on their balcony drinking some superb Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, looking over the vineyards and we experienced a perfect moment of tranquility and peace. We turned to each other at the same time and said, "Let's do this!" Our dream was born.
The first and most important step to realizing our dream was to find a world class winemaker. For years our favorite wines were the ones produced by Charlie Hoppes. Therefore, it made sense to contact Charlie and present our proposal to him. We were fortunate that Charlie agreed to become our winemaker.
Now we had to find a place to call home for Hamilton Cellars. We quickly found that our area of Washington has some very strange and strict zoning laws and, at the time, we could not locate a winery in the city limits of any of the three cities that make up the Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco and Richland). The counties presented their own challenges, so we finally ended up purchasing a 23 acre parcel in West Richland. We had plans drawn up to create a wine village with our facility occupying a third of the site. We spent six months working with architects and site designers so we could build our winery. A week before we were scheduled to break ground we received a letter from the US Bureau of Land Management telling us we were trespassing on their land and we were to vacate immediately! It turns out that when the City of West Richland sold us the land, they did not actually own it and the attorneys and title company all missed it! We initiated a lawsuit to retrieve the money we had invested in the land, but meanwhile we were still producing wine and needed a place to sell our product.
Our next stop was a beautiful lot in S. Kennewick. During the time we were working on the property in West Richland, both Kennewick and Richland added zoning that would allow wineries to locate within City limits. The Kennewick lot was only 2 acres, so we had to totally redesign our winery to fit on the new property. Once again, we spent six month in the design phase and, right before we were set to break ground, the bank told us that they did not want to finalize the loan while we were involved in a lawsuit against West Richland! Strike two!
At this point we seriously considered giving up on our dream. However, we are both pretty stubborn and determined and decided we would give it one more shot. After a lot of deliberation, we decided to convert an office building we owned in Queensgate Village into our tasting room. At the same time we found a large building that had formerly been used as a beer distribution warehouse and Charlie thought it would make a great winery production facility. We spent many months renovating both the tasting room building and the production building. In January, we opened the tasting room and received an occupancy permit on the production building. The third time really is the charm!