- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) - The new Wine Science Center at Washington State University’s Tri-Cities campus will bear the name of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, the state’s largest wine maker.

The announcement of the name as part of a dedication ceremony Thursday came as Washington State reached its goal of having the $23 million research and teaching center paid for in time for the grand opening, the Tri-City Herald reported.

Ste. Michelle donated the remaining $500,000 needed for the 40,000-square foot facility.

The company didn’t ask for naming rights, but WSU decided to call the building the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center in recognition of 25 years of support.

Ted Baseler, Ste. Michelle’s president and CEO, said the company is honored by WSU’s decision. The Wine Science Center will help the state become one of the top three premier wine regions in the world, Baseler said.

Work done at the Wine Science Center will help the industry stay ahead of viruses, pests and other challenges and continue to elevate the quality of the product, he said. “Without the scientific research and education that will be performed at this building, the industry would have been taking a giant risk,” said Baseler, who served as chairman of WSU’s Wine Campaign.

Opening the center in the Tri-Cities means it is about an hour’s drive from 80 percent of the state’s 850 wineries, said Dan Bernardo, WSU provost and executive vice president.

Washington state is the second largest U.S. wine producer after California. The industry’s economic impact in Washington was estimated at $8.6 billion in 2011, according to the state wine commission.

Washington remains a relatively young player in the international wine market, with the first grape-growing area acknowledged in 1983, said Steve Warner, president of the Washington State Wine Commission.

Students will start taking classes in the new building this fall.

The Washington State Wine Commission provided $7.4 million to jump-start the project, and numerous individual wineries and vineyards kicked in money. The 2012 Legislature put in $5 million, and the U.S. Economic Development Administration provided $2 million.

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Information from: Tri-City Herald, http://www.tri-cityherald.com

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