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Washington Wineries, Wines
and
Wine Country

     In recent years, Washington's wine industry has become the fastest-growing agricultural sector in the state. The number of  Washington wineries has increased 400% in the last decade, attracting two million annual visitors to Washington wine country and creating a two million dollar wine-tourism industry.

       Located approximately on the same latitude (46ºN) as some of the great French wine regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy, Washington State wine country now includes 13 federally recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), commonly known as appellations.  Three of them share territory with Oregon State.


       Climates of individual Washington wine regions differ dramatically.  Cross cut north to south by the Cascade Mountains, Washington State is more mild and lush to the west of this volcanically formed barrier than the lands to its east.  In fact, the Puget Sound AVA/appellation is the only officially recognized wine region on the west side of the Cascades.  Currently, only about 1% of the state's wine grapes are grown here, and just a hand full of Washington wineries produce wines from those locally grown grapes.  In the cool-climate viticultural area of the Puget Sound, eastbound marine air masses drift over the ridges of the Coast Range and flow toward the Cascade range.  Clouds must rise to continue their eastward heading, and air temperatures fall as elevation increases causing moisture to fall as rain or snow before the north-south barrier of the Cascade ridges is breached.  Very little moisture reaches the east side of these towering mountains, thus causing the "rain shadow" effect to more than half of Washington State's territory. 


       The resulting arid climate, combined with the long daylight hours of the growing season at this northern latitude, create prime wine growing conditions in the lands of eastern Washington.  Vineyard canopies can be controlled by irrigation management and grapes can fully ripen here, bringing complex fruit flavors, good acid levels and pleasing aromatics to Washington wines. 
 



       Vineyards on the east side of the Cascades grow 99% of Washington's wine grapes; 10 of the state's 11 official AVAs/appellations are located here.  The macro appellation of the Columbia Valley encompasses the smaller Yakima Valley AVA, Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain AVA, Walla Walla Valley AVA, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope and Snipes Mountain (Washington State's newest appellation).  The Columbia Gorge AVA begins at the western edge of the Columbia Valley AVA and continues west and south to areas along the Columbia River in both Oregon and Washington

     Other emerging wine regions benefit from the huge rain shadow created by the Cascade Mountains -- the Lake Chelan AVA, the Ancient Lakes of the Columbia Valley AVA in north-central Washington and the Columbia River region near Wenatchee.  The latter is pursuing AVA status to define their region as distinct from the Columbia Valley AVA that contains it.

   All totaled, Washington wine regions produce more wine grapes than any other state in the U.S., except California.  Wine grapes are now the fourth most important fruit crop in Washington State behind apples, cherries and pears.
 


Washington's Winemaking History

      Washington’s first wine grapes were planted in 1825.  By 1910, wine grapes were growing in most areas of the state, following the path of early settlers.  Initially, it was French, German and Italian immigrants who pioneered the earliest plantings.

       Large-scale irrigation, fueled by runoff from the melting snowcaps of the Cascade Mountains, arrived in Eastern Washington in 1903 unlocking the dormant potential of the rich volcanic soils and war, sunny desert-like climate.  Italian and German varietals were planted in the Yakima and Columbia Valleys and wine grape acreage expanded rapidly in the early part of the 20th century. 

        The first commercial-scale plantings began in the 1960’s.  Early commercial producers mentored modern winemaking in the state.  The resulting rapid expansion of the industry in the mid-70’s is now rivaled by today’s breakneck pace, where a new winery opens every couple of weeks.  The trend started by a few home winemakers and visionary farmers has become a respected and influential industry.

Touring Washington's Wine Country Regions

      The map and links below allow you to explore Washington wineries within each Washington wine region.  Watch for links to suggested nearby lodging, dining, special events and touring opportunities as you explore the Wines Northwest pages of each region. Click on the region of your choice below to begin.

  Click on Map regions for more information about Washington appellations 
 

To print map, RIGHT mouse click over the map and do one of the following:
Internet Explorer
click on the “Print Picture” option;
Firefox
click on “View image” then choose Print from the browser pull down menu; or
Safari
and Chrome click on “Open image in new tab” then choose Print from browser pull down menu.

Official Appellations/AVAs
     
  Link to Lake Chelan Region of Washington State Wine Country    Link to map of Rattlesnake Hills region           Walla Walla Wine Region  Yakima Valley Wine Region   
Link to Columbia Gorge wine region page      Puget Sound and Seattle Wine Region      Other Columbia Valley Regions
   

Other Unofficial Wine Country Regions

       

 


Washington's American Viticultural Areas (AVAs)

 Yakima Valley - 14,000 acres in production, established 1983;
40% Red, 60% White
 

 Columbia Valley - 6,070 acres in production. Established 1984.
By far the largest AVA in Washington.  Encompasses Red Mountain,
Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Wahluke Slope, Rattlesnake Hills,
Horse Heaven Hills, Snipes Mountain, Naches Heights and Lake Chelan AVAs
and more than 95% of the total vineyard acreage planted in the state.

 Walla Walla Valley - 1,304 acres
in production, established 1984.
82% Red, 18% White
 

 Puget Sound - 178 acres
in production, established 1995.
61% Red, 39% White
 
 

 Red Mountain
- 1,273 acres in production, established 2001.
93% Red, 7% White 

Columbia Gorge - 394 acres in production, established 2004.
36% Red, 64% White 

Horse Heaven Hills - 10,584 acres in production, established 2005.
66% Red, 34% White 

Wahluke Slope - 6,645 acres in production, established 2006.
67% Red, 33% White 

Rattlesnake Hills - 1,599 acres in production, established 2006.
56% Red, 44% White 

Snipes Mountain -
704 acres in production, established in 2009.
54% Red, 46% White 

Lake Chelan - 247 acres in production, established
April 2009.
51% Red, 49% White 
Naches Heights - 105 acres in production; 13,254 total acres.
Established January 2012.  Located on a volcanic plateau above
the city of Yakima. Totally within the Columbia Valley AVA.

Ancient Lakes of the Columbia Valley - 1,399 acres in production,
established November 2012. 
20% Red, 80% White 

Unofficial Wine Country Regions

Wenatchee Wine Country - pending AVA application
Spokane Area - unofficial wine region
Leavenworth Area - unofficial wine region
North Central Washington - unofficial wine region

Grapes Harvested

2013 - 220,000 tons (est)

2012 - 188,000 tons
2011 - 142,000 tons
2010 - 156,000 tons
2009 - 165,000 tons
2008 - 145,000 tons
2007 - 127,150 tons
2006 - 120,500 tons
2005 - 110,000 tons 
2004 - 107,000 tons
2002 - 115,00 tons
2000 - 90,000 tons
1995 - 62,000 tons
1990 - 38,000 tons

Leading Varietals

Reds:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot,
Syrah, Cabernet Franc
Whites:  Chardonnay, White Riesling,
Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer

Additional Varietals

Aligoté, Barbera, Chenin Blanc, Cinsault, 
Dolcetto, Grenache, Madeleine Angevine,
Malbec, Mourvèdre, Müller-Thurgau,
Muscats - assorted,
Nebbiolo, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot,
Pinot Noir, Rousanne, Sangiovese, Sémillon,
Siegerrebe, Tempranillo, Viognier,
Zinfandel

Industry's Statewide Economic Impact

The wine industry as a whole contributes
$8.6 billion to Washington State's economy;
it provides jobs for 27,000 people.
(Based on info from 2010 & 2011 study
by Stonebridge Research
of St. Helena, CA)

 

Washington Wine Facts

*  Ranks 2nd nationally in premium
    wine production

*  Averages 17.4 hours of sunlight per
   day, about two hours more than in
   California's prime growing region.

*   Washington’s wine industry has a
    national economic impact of $15
    billion per year, according to a study
    released in April 2012
    by
Stonebridge Research
of St. Helena, CA

Number of Licensed Wineries  
2013 - 739
 2011 - 700+
2009 - 602
2008 - 550
2006 - 460  
2004 - 323    
2003 - 250  
2002 - 208  
 1999 - 144   
 1993  -  80   
 1986  -  38   
 1981 -  19   
1976  - 9    

Vinifera Acreage in Production

2012 - 44,000 acres

2011 - 41,000 acres
2010 - 37,000 acres
2009 - 36,000 acres
2007 - 31,000 acres
2006 - 29,500 acres
2005 - 28,000 acres
2004 - 27,400 acres
2002 - 24,200 acres
1998 - 12,800 acres

1993 - 11,100
 acres
1969 -  469 acres      
 


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Copyright © 1997 - January, 2014  Susan R. O'Hara. All rights reserved.
Last revised:  January 07, 2014