The prose is deliberate, straightforward, and academically understated: “If hardier varieties free of diseases are used and the best cultural practices known to obtain full vine maturity are followed, it is feasible to grow European grapes in favorable sites in south central Washington.”
Those words from Bulletin 823 by Chas Nagel, George Carter, and Walt Clore, exciting as they were in 1976, still could only suggest the potential of Washington’s barely nascent wine industry. By convincing Washington farmers that they could grow vinifera grapes, the source of fine wine, Clore, who died this past January at 91, empowered Washington to join the ranks of the world’s greatest wine regions.
Six months after Prohibition was repealed, Clore decided he didn’t want to work in an Oklahoma refinery any more, so he applied to Washington State College to pursue an advanced degree. WSC offered him a half-fellowship at $500 a year. He and his new wife, Irene, moved to Pullman in 1934. When he finished his degree in horticulture in 1937, he accepted a position with the Irrigation Branch Experiment Station-now the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center-as horticulturist. He was the third faculty member at the site.
Clore started out working with tree fruits and small fruits, but eventually became transfixed by Washington’s potential for vinifera. That interest grew to trials of different varieties around the state. “Walt was Johnny Grapeseed,” says Nagel.
Many of the best vineyards of southeastern Washington are sited based on Clore’s recommendations. After he retired from WSU in 1976, he consulted with many wineries around the state.
He also left his name prominently around the state. WSU offers the Walter Clore Scholarship. One of Columbia Crest Winery’s vineyards, atop the Horse Heaven Hills, is the Walter Clore Vineyard. Last year, Columbia Crest released 2,000 cases of a 1999 Bordeaux-style blend and named it Walter Clore Private Reserve. In the works is the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser.
A couple of months before he died, Clore told the Wine Spectator, “With all the things they put my name on, I feel I should be six feet under.” Sometimes, justice prevails, and honor precedes the grave.
Walter Clore was profiled in a larger article on the Washington wine industry in the premier issue (November 2001) of Washington State Magazine.