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Walter Clore, Wine Grape Pioneer Dies

PULLMAN, Wash. — Walter Clore, the son of teetotaling parents who grew up to become widely and formally recognized as the father of Washington’s modern, premium wine grape industry, died Monday, Feb. 3 in Yakima. He was 91 years old.

“From my point of view, Walter Clore was a true pioneer in agricultural research,” said James Zuiches, dean of the Washington State University College of Agriculture and Home Economics.

“He took leadership without anyone telling him to, to evaluate wine grape varieties for Washington’s environment. He laid the basis for a multimillion dollar industry.

“He was a role model for faculty and many people have benefitted from his research and extension work. He never lost his love for the industry.

“He didn’t teach formally in a classroom, but he taught thousands of people through his publications, extension programs and training of students in field work,” Zuiches said.

Clore was born July 1, 1911 and came to Washington State College in 1934 on a $500 fellowship. In 1937, Clore was appointed assistant horticulturist. He was the third faculty member on staff at the center and began working with tree fruits and small fruits including grapes.

One of Clore’s primary contributions to the industry was figuring out where premium wine grapes could be grown in the state. He grew vinifera varieties throughout the state and collected volumes of data on how they fared. His long-time partner in promoting the industry, Chas Nagel, recently said, “Walt was Johnny Grapeseed.”

It took about three decades to build the foundation for today’s premium wine industry in Washington. In 1969, another Clore colleague, WSU agricultural economist Ray Folwell, reported 469 acres of wine grapes being grown in Washington. Today the industry has grown to 24,000 acres that produce nearly$88 million worth of wine grapes.

The horticulturist spent his entire career at the WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center near Prosser, retiring in 1976.

In retirement, Clore remained a central figure in Washington’s $2.4 billion wine industry. In 2001 the Washington State Legislature adopted a resolution formally declaring Clore “Father of Washington’s Wine Industry.”

Clore’s death came as plans were being made to build a $6 million Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser.

In 1993, the WSU Foundation established the Walter J. Clore Scholarship Endowment to provide scholarships to full-time undergraduate students at WSU who are interested in studying grape production, processing or marketing.

Shaw and Sons Funeral Directors, Yakima, is in charge of arrangements.

People who wish to make a memorial gift may contact Patrick Kramer, WSU College of Agriculture and Home Economics development director, who has a list of four charities that the family has suggested.

Kramer may be reached at (509) 335-2243 or kramerp@wsu.edu.

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