The Wonderful World of Washington State Wine, by the Washington Wine Commission

Home to global giants like Microsoft and Starbucks, Washington State is a place of tremendous vision and drive. Our wine industry also reflects these characteristics as one of the world’s most dynamic & exciting wine regions in the world. Our innovative growers and winemakers broke ground in a vast, wild territory where conventional wisdom said they could not. And they have expanded that work to create America’s second-largest wine region, with more than 50,000 acres (20,234 hectares) of vines and more than 900 wineries – a number that had doubled in the last decade.

We cultivate nearly 70 grape varieties, including Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Washington has 14 federally approved unique growing regions with a mosaic of landscapes, from evergreen coasts and snow-capped mountains to a vast sagebrush desert where the sun shines 300 days a year. These diverse regions result in a wide array of climates, soil types, and growing conditions that allow a wide variety of grapes to grow well. These range from warm sites such as Red Mountain to cool regions like the Puget Sound and areas in between. The great Missoula Floods, a series of cataclysmic events that happened some 15,000 years ago, define the soil types of the vineyards in Washington. Most vineyards lie below the floodwaters with soils of loess—wind-blown deposits of sand and silt—overlying gravel and slackwater sediment with basalt forming the bedrock. This provides a diversity of soil types that are well drained and ideal for viticulture.

Long, warm days and cool nights in the growing regions create a large diurnal shift, which helps maintain the natural acidity of the grapes. Washington State has some of the most dramatic fluctuations of any wine region in the world with up to 40º F difference between daytime high and nighttime low temperatures. The higher levels of natural acidity contribute to making the wines more food friendly and also assist with their longevity.

Our winemakers and grape growers live throughout the state. Some work in small towns where old homes, beautiful barns and converted mills reflect the American west.  Others choose to live amongst the hustle and bustle of Seattle and neighboring cities. No matter where they call home, they are active in their communities, connected to the land and eager to share their stories. Because vineyards and wineries here are often spread across hundreds of miles, grape growers and vintners must work in tandem. From individual vine rows reserved for specific winemakers to fully-fledged joint-ownership projects, our region is one of shared endeavors and true collaboration.

The vast majority of wineries in Washington are small, family producers making less than 5,000 cases annually. In fact, of the state’s 900+ wineries, only about 20 make more than 40,000 cases annually. The small, artisan nature of the industry contributes to producing wines of exceptional quality. When stopped in a tasting room, the person you see walking in the vineyard, driving a forklift or opening bottles behind the counter is often the owner or winemaker. Our wines echo this authenticity – rare natural conditions permit cultivation without the common, manipulative practice of vine grafting or intensive use of chemicals. We harvest the purest expression possible for every wine. And our wines exhibit that spirit of integration, combining the vibrant fruit character expected of American wine with the defined structure typical of the Old World.

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