With no buyer, one of state's oldest wineries may close for good

With no buyer, one of state's oldest wineries may close for good
BURIEN, Wash. -- One of the oldest wineries in Washington state is up for sale. But finding a buyer has been a tough sell.

And if a buyer isn't found, the owner says 30 years of local wine-making could come to an end.

When E.B. Foote Winery originally started in 1978, "there were only six other washington wineries," says owner Sherrill Miller. "Now there are 700."

For 20 years, Miller and her husband, Rich Higginbotham, crafted some of the finest wine in the state. But in 2008, her husband lost his battle with Alzheimers disease.

"I couldn't in my heart of hearts hire someone to replace my husband," she said. "So I realized it was time for me to step down and let someone else take it to the next level."

After a year on the market, Merrill has bad news for her customers.

"I tell them that I have serious interest but no offers have come forward," she said. "If I don't have a buyer by the end of this month, then I will have to dissolve the winery and start selling off equipment."

Banks are reluctant to make small business loans. And the local economy in Burien isn't helping. "For lease" signs are easy to find. Business owners say a push to revamp the downtown area hasn't taken off.

And times are tough even for top-notch merchants.

"You can see we've had a lot of quality wine. So we've gotten bronze, silver and gold -- good points from wine spectator," Miller said.

One of Miller's favorite wines has her husband's picture on the front. It's a tribute to the partner she built a business and a life with.

"I made a special wine in his honor called Remembrance, and I donate the purchase price of that wine to an alzheimer research project," said Miller.

Another barrel has her life motto -- "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

"So that's the silver lining in the cloud, I guess," Miller said. "If I end up losing the winery, I can feel good about making a giant donation for mankind."