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Phinny Hill Vineyards installs trellis system at WSU Tri-Cities

Research and teaching vineyardWorkers from Phinny Hill Vineyards are installing a trellis system to support the wine grapevines growing in the teaching vineyard at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

Phinny Hill Vineyards donated about $10,000 worth of labor and equipment such as posts and wire to the project. The teaching vineyard is at the Sprout Road entrance to campus of George Washington Way. The trellis project is nearly completion. The crew is scheduled to arrive on campus by 7 a.m. Thursday, May 1, for what might be the last day on the project.

The team is led by Richard Beightol of Phinny Hill Vineyards, a 100-acre vineyard located in the Horse Heaven Hills appellation in Alderdale, south of Prosser. He expects to be on campus Thursday by 10 a.m.

Installing a trellis and planting vinesThe WSU Tri-Cities vineyard was started last year, with about 200 vines planted on June 15. Another 200 vines were planted this Feb. 29.

Now a half-acre, the vineyard includes the red wine varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah, plus the white wine varieties of Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, and Riesling. Each of the 24 rows is about 100 feet long.

“I was doing research on berry shrivel with Richard at his vineyard,” said Bhaskar Bondada, assistant professor in the WSU Tri-Cities Viticulture and Enology program. “I was talking about our teaching vineyard and he offered to help. He is committed to supporting viticulture education in our region.”

Richard Beightol installing a trellisThe goal of the teaching vineyard is to provide a place for Viticulture and Enology students to apply the scientific principles underlying grape growing and wine making, Bondada said. The first quality grapes for making wine should be harvested in fall 2010.

Phinny Hill Vineyards primarily grows the Bordeaux wine grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Carmenere, and Mablec, then supplies those grapes to a growing list wineries including Robert Karl Cellars in Spokane, Buty Winery in Walla Walla, TimberRock Winery in Post Falls, Idaho, and Walla Walla Community College’s College Cellars.

“Both of our sons — Will and Brandon — went to WSU Pullman,” Beightol said of the inspiration for his help with the teaching vineyard. “We are appreciative of what WSU does for the wine grape industry. And our mentor, Bud Mercer, always has been supportive of WSU.”

In addition to Phinny Hill Vineyards, the WSU Tri-Cities teaching vineyard project also has been supported by Irrigation Specialists, Gordon Brothers Family Vineyards, Bookwalter Winery LLC, and Inland Desert Nursery.