Michael Florentino tasting room to open at South Ridge Village

Mike Haddox, the founder of the Winemaker’s Loft in Prosser, will open a tasting room for his Michael Florentino wines at Kennewick’s South Ridge Village.

Haddox said the new 1,500 square foot tasting room, next to Anelare, will have a small barrel room and will open in June.

His future involvement with The Winemaker’s Loft is unknown, right now, after financial difficulties led to the upscale winery incubator being sold by the bank to a group of Boise investors.

Haddox, a former winemaker for Glen Fiona in Walla Walla and general manager of Silver Lake Winery in Zillah, spent nearly three years and $2 million building the Tuscan-style Winemaker’s Loft at Prosser Vintner Village.

Haddox was the heart and soul of the project, which gave him a place to craft his wines and the ability to help other startup wineries get off the ground. But the majority of the money for building came from Haddox’s partners, who were real estate investors from Idaho.

“They ran into some serious financial problems and nearly went bankrupt and the Loft was one of the least important properties they had,” said Haddox.

Haddox said the group initially tried to sell the building, but didn’t have any luck, so they turned the note back to the bank.

“I wanted to buy them out and take it over, but didn’t have the money,” he said.

A group of Boise investors bought the property, but Haddox said he is unsure if he’ll continue to manage it. His own tasting room has been closed for several months because he sold out of the 900 cases of his 2006 releases. His 2007 wines were released in late April during spring barrel tasting weekend.

And although the tasting room for his Michael Florentino wines is moving, it will still be surrounded by other wineries.

He will be next door to Anelare and a few doors down from AVA Wine Rooms, owned by developer Dean Maldonaldo and his wife, Whitney.

There are also plans to build a tasting room for Hamilton Winery in the development off Highway 395. The area experiences a huge amount of traffic from its close proximity to Kennewick’s main Interstate 82 interchange and is growing rapidly.

A hotel is planned in the area and Meadow Hills Veterinary Center is building a new practice there, as well.

After a long, cold winter clouded by the recession, the announcement of $2 billion in stimulus funds for Hanford has rejuvenated activity and interest in the area, Maldonaldo said.

“For the first time in months people are calling me,” he said.

Maldonaldo said he’s had calls from spas, restaurants and other wineries looking for commercial spaces for their businesses.

 Source: Tri-City Journal of Business

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