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Posted on Nov 6, 2014

Ancient Lake Winery up and running on Beverly Burke

Wine pressing is finishing up at a new $5 million winery and grape-crushing facility on Beverly Burke Road in George.

Ancient Lake Winery last week was hauling in grapes from the nearby Evergreen Vineyard, located only about a mile from the Gorge Amphitheatre, to its new facility that continues to be under construction. Crews there expect to be done crushing early this month, said Jerry Milbrandt, owner of the winery and local Quincy man.

The new facility will process 1,000 tons of grapes yet this year, Milbrandt said.

“Next year, it will be closer to 8,000 tons,” he said.

And, eventually, Milbrandt and his new crew plan to build the facility into one of the largest in the state, processing a potential 3.5 million cases of wine a year.

“It’s exactly where we need to be,” Milbrandt said of his choice to build the facility in George.
Ancient Lake Winery sits on 13 acres of property in the Port of Quincy’s Industrial Park No. 5 near George. An agreement between the port and City of George put a new well on the property, which Milbrandt purchased earlier this year, and the operation was up and running last month.

Chardonnay grapes are unloaded at Ancient Lake Winery.

Chardonnay grapes are unloaded at Ancient Lake Winery.

Curt Morris of the Port of Quincy believes having Ancient Lake Winery as an anchor tenant in the industrial park will spark more development for the small community of George. It is the first industrial development George has seen in a long time, Morris said.

“I do truly believe that activity will breed activity,” he said.

And the port has found a good partner in Milbrandt, a well-known businessman in a growing industry, Morris added.

Already an owner of one of the largest wineries in the state, Milbrandt has a similar facility currently operating on 7 acres in Mattawa. Milbrandt and his brother, Butch Milbrandt, are partners in the Mattawa operation.

Milbrandt Vineyards has about 1,375 acres of vineyards, much of it white wine grapes growing in the Quincy and George area that must be delivered to five different outside sites during the annual six-week harvest. With a winery and grape-crushing facility in George, Ancient Lake Winery will have better control of its product, Milbrandt said.

The new facility is loaded with state-of-the-art equipment, including an Italian press that holds 40 tons of grapes at a time.

The high-tech press allows the winery to capture 165 gallons of juice from one ton of grapes, said Milbrandt, who plans to add a second press in the near future.

The new facility will be working with white wine grapes, producing mainly Riesling, Pionot Gris and Chardonnay wines, said winemaker Brandon Rice.It will concentrate on custom jobs for such big players in the state as Chateau Ste. Michelle and Charles Smith Wines.

Easy to spot from Highway 281 are the facility’s 18,000-gallon stainless steel tanks, most of them covered in foam insulation foam. The tanks, which eventually will have catwalks over them, have been going up one by one over the past several weeks. There are more than a dozen tanks there now.

In time, the operation will include about 130 of the 18,000-gallon tanks and about 140 34,000-gallon tanks, which sit on concrete pads. By 2017, Milbrant expects to be producing about 3.5 million gallons of wine and then eventually another 4 million to 5 million gallons, he said.

The winery in Mattawa already is the third largest in the state, producing 13,000 to 14,000 tons of wine a year, Milbrandt said. This new facility will be similar to it, he added.

By 2017, Ancient Lake Winery will employ about 10 people. Milbrandt expects to add more employees with the addition of a bottling line in 2018.

Enologist Nicole Arnold works in her lab at Ancient Lake Winery. Arnold moved to the area recently to work at the winery.

Enologist Nicole Arnold works in her lab at Ancient Lake Winery. Arnold moved to the area recently to work at the winery.

At the new facility now are Rice, enologist Nicole Arnold and cellar master Hector Trujano. he three employees are transplants from the Tri-Cities area. They say the opportunity to help Milbrandt start a new winery from the ground up drew them to the area.

“Where else can you build a winery from the ground up?” Arnold asked. “It’s like our baby.”

“There are people who have been in this industry 20 to 30 years and they never get this opportunity,” Rice added. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more rewarding.”