Dr. Walter J. Clore was a man with a passion and vision for Washington viticulture that extended far beyond his years.
The son of teetotalers, he was born July 1, 1911 in the small town of Tecumseh, Oklahoma. He grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and after high school, received his bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Oklahoma A&M, now known as Oklahoma State University. With a hardworking spirit and college degree under his belt, he managed through the Great Depression sweeping floors at an oil refinery for 25 cents an hour. This experience and an article he read on the Grand Coulee Dam irrigation project were the turning points that inspired Dr. Clore to seek out opportunities and a better life in Washington State.
In 1934, he landed a scholarship with Washington State College, now known as Washington State University (WSU) for $500 to study horticulture. He and his wife Irene, arrived in Pullman with only $5 in their pockets. In 1937, he was hired as the fourth faculty member to staff the WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research Extension Center in Prosser, WA and began work with small fruits and vegetables, including grapes. It was there he would work for the next forty years, pursuing his interest in horticulture and cultivating a passion for growing fine wine grape varietals.
Dr. Clore began trials of grape varieties in Prosser and tested more than 250 American, European and hybrid varietals. In 1960, he partnered with WSU microbiologist and former Napa Valley resident Charles Nagel to test the vines and determine what would grow where and under what conditions. Dr. Clore’s meticulous research was instrumental in assuring Washington farmers that they could grow vinifera grapes and produce fine wine.
Dr. Clore retired from WSU in 1976 and published his studies and feasibility of growing vinifera in Washington, “Ten Years of Grape Variety Responses and Wine-Making Trials in Central Washington“. He also co-authored “The Wine Project: Washington State’s Winemaking History” with Ron Irvine. He received many awards in his lifetime. In 2003, the Washington State Legislature officially recognized Dr. Clore as the Father of the Washington State Wine Industry for his research contribution to Washington viticulture.
His viticultural research, especially on the challenges of growing European wine grapes, played an indispensable role in the expansion of Washington viniculture. After retirement from WSU, Dr. Clore worked as a consultant to the wine industry, most notably for Ste. Michelle Vineyards. Today, Washington state is the second largest premium wine producer in the country and it’s wine industry contributes in excess of $14.9 billion to the national economy and supports more than 27,000 jobs.
Dr. Clore passed on February 3, 2003 at the age of 91 and will forever be remembered as “The Father of Washington Wine”. The Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center will be dedicated in his honor to showcase the quality of Washington’s modern day viticulture, enology and culinary practices through education, experience and entertainment.
The Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center will provide a destination point to educate visitors, media and industry about the quality, diversity and unique attributes of Washington’s wine and food products. The idea is to communicate information in a fun and interesting orientation and to help the wine consumer make informed choices.