Gift of wine science greenhouse honors ag pioneer

By Melissa O’Neil Perdue, WSU Tri-Cities

Patsy-&-Bud-160RICHLAND, Wash. – Patsy J. Mercer, the Mercer Family and Mercer Canyons Inc. today announced a combined donation of $250,000 toward the Wine Science Center under construction at Washington State University Tri-Cities in Richland.

The family’s gift will establish the “Bud” Mercer Greenhouse in memory of Milton “Bud” Mercer, Jr. for his pioneering role in Washington agriculture. The gift was announced at the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers Conference held at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.

“Bud was a great leader, businessman, husband and family man,” said Patsy Mercer, his wife. “He invested his time, effort and resources to support people, ideas and opportunities he believed would make a difference to the industry and to our community.

Rendering of greenhouse.

“The Wine Science Center will play a vital role in the Pacific Northwest as a center for research and education,” she added. “It is a fitting tribute to honor Bud’s memory by ensuring that the facility has a research greenhouse to support the needs of the Washington wine industry.”

Prior to his passing in 2010, Bud and Patsy lived in Prosser and in the Horse Heaven Hills, where he became a leader in the farming business over the course of his life. In 1959, the family founded Mercer Ranches, Inc., which now operates as Mercer Canyons under son Rob Mercer’s leadership.

Rob and Bud, together with Mike Hogue and Ron Harle, founded Mercer Estates Winery. Bud also was instrumental in creation of the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in Prosser.

Bud Mercer in a potato field.

The research greenhouse, proposed to be named in Bud’s memory, will service WSU’s viticulture and enology program based at WSU Tri-Cities. The greenhouse will include two 18×22-foot greenhouses attached to a headhouse located adjacent to the Wine Science Center.

Construction started in fall 2013 on the center, a 39,300-square-foot, LEED Silver (environmental building rating) facility in the heart of Washington wine country. The $23 million facility is about 15 percent complete. When it opens in early 2015, it will be the most technologically advanced wine research and education center in the world.

Designed to attract world-class researchers and students, its research and educational efforts will focus on the challenges and opportunities faced by Pacific Northwest grape growers and winemakers. More details on the project and its unique partnerships are at

WSU has been involved in wine-related research since the 1930s and is the only university in the Pacific Northwest offering bachelor’s and graduate degrees in viticulture and enology, plus a wine business management program and a distance education program to earn a professional certificate. Thomas Henick-Kling joined WSU in 2009 as director of the viticulture and enology program (, which has more than 30 faculty members in the Tri-Cities, Prosser and Pullman.

Learn more about the dynamic educational experiences available at WSU Tri-Cities at



Melissa O’Neil Perdue, marketing and communications manager, WSU Tri-Cities, 509-372-7319, cell/text 509-727-3094,

Thomas Henick-Kling, director, WSU viticulture and enology program, 509-372-7292, cell/text 503-704-5235,