Good Fruit Grower

February 15

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Basalt Cellars is reviving the once-thriving wine region in Clarkston, Washington. by Melissa Hansen This is the third of a four-part story highlighting vineyards in Washington State that comprise the four compass points of north, east, south, and west. W hen Rick Wasem of Basalt Cellars started planting wine grapes in 1996 in Clarkston, Washington, he not only established the state's easternmost vineyard, but began the process of bring- ing award- winning local wines back to what was once a thriv- ing wine region. In the late 1800s, the area was a signifi cant grape region, with grapes grown for juice, wine, and processing. The cities of Clarkston and Lewiston, located in two separate states and divided by the Snake River, jointly have a population of around 60,000. Clarkston is on the Washing- ton side, Lewiston in Idaho. Robert Schleicher was an early grape pioneer, planting 130 acres of wine grapes in 1883 near Lewiston and receiving awards from wine competitions in New York, Mis- souri, and Oregon. Another pioneer was Robert Schafer, who planted 60 acres of grapes in Lewiston in 1896 and had one of the state's earlier wineries in Clarkston, operating from 1906 to 1911, according to Ron Irvine's The Wine Project: Washington State's Winemak- ing History. An area of Clarkston is still called Vineland, a throwback to its grape- producing days. But because Idaho was an early adopter of Prohibition laws (Lewiston voted to be a dry town in 1910), most of the grapevines were pulled out and replaced with tree fruit orchards well before the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect in 1920. Wasem's grandfather had a vineyard in Clarkston in the 1910s and grew juice grapes to process in his cannery. His grandfather did not "offi cially" make wine due to his Christian Science religious affi liation, said Wasem, but winemaking equipment was housed in a portion of his barn. 28 FEBRUARY 15, 2014 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Lynn DeVleming and Rick Wasem are co-owners in Basalt Cellars, a Clarkston, Washington winery. They are standing in Wasem's vineyard that overlooks the Snake River. Washington's easternmost VINEYARD "We discovered that selling 2,200 cases in Clarkston was diffi cult." —Rick Wasem

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