7 Surprising Washington State Wine Facts
Washington State is the second-largest producer of wines in the country. With 400+ grape growers, 1,100 wineries, and 60,000 acres of wine grapes, the state produces over eight varieties of wine each year. The total economic impact of the wine industry in Washington State is close to $8 billion and is increasing each year. Here are more fun Washington State wine facts.
Even though the wine industry in Washington is not very old, within half a century it has become the second-largest producer of wines in the nation. Many of the state’s wineries have won numerous national awards for their high-quality wines. The organic wine Washington State makes is some of the best in the United States.
Wine grapes were first planted in Washington State in 1825, but the formal winemaking business did not start until the 1970s. Riesling and Chardonnay were the first wines to make it big in the ‘70s, followed by the Merlot craze in the ‘80s, and the arrival of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon in the ‘90s.
The majority of wine grapes are grown in eastern Washington near the Cascade Mountains. In particular, the Columbia Valley is where most grapes are grown. This region has hot dry summers and cool winters with loam soil, which grapes prefer. This region has much less rainfall than the rest of the state; hence, irrigation is necessary, which allows growers more control over the growth of the grapes.
The eastern region of Washington State receives close to 17 hours of sunlight every day during the growing season, which is two hours more than California. This contributes to ripe grapes with thick skins that are packed with fruity flavors.
The Riesling grapes are planted more than any other type of grapes in Washington State. The Riesling grapes are not meant to be eaten; they are edible, but the taste is not great because they contain a lot of seeds and have thick skins. The Riesling wine produced by these grapes, however, is some of the best on this planet.
A recent post by the Washington State wine commission tells us that a new winery opens in the state almost every four weeks. The majority of these wineries open in the Columbia Valley.
Washington State wine facts include the information that the region has 14 federally defined American Viticultural Areas (AVA). Except for one, all the rest are located in eastern Washington. The largest AVA is Columbia Valley AVA, which spans most of the central and southern areas of the state, extending into northern Oregon. More than 90 percent of the wine made in the state comes from this region.
The Walla Walla Valley AVA is located within the Columbia River Valley AVA. Some of the best wines from the state are produced here from the 120 wineries. Walla Walla is a Native American term meaning “place of many waters.” The region is most well-known for its high-quality Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Even though Washington State is known for its predominantly wet climate and constant rain, up in vineyard country, located in the eastern part of the state, the climate is in fact warm, dry, and arid. This area only gets about 7-8 inches of water annually; hence, there is a well-developed irrigation system from the rivers and runoff from the mountains.
The secret to Washington’s wine industry is the climate with warm, long days and cool nights. The drastic diurnal shift in temperatures ensures that the grapes are ripe, rich in sugar, and contain the right amount of acidity.
Unlike other parts of the world where vines are grown on phylloxera tolerant rootstocks, the vines in Washington State are planted on their own rootstock. The reason is that cold winters and sandy loam soil prevent the proliferation of insects and fungi.
In Washington State, the ratio between red and white wines is 52:48. Top white wines include Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc. Top red wines include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah.
If you want to know more Washington State wine facts and what the wines taste like, here are some of the best wines from eastern Washington. They are affordable and of great quality. They include:
- 2019 RAINSTORM PINOT NOIR
- 2018 SILVER TOTEM CABERNET SAUVIGNON
- 2020 J RIESLING
- 2018 RAINSTORM PINOT NOIR ROSÉ
Pacific Rim & Company offers a staff of professionals who are excited and enthusiastic about Washington wines, especially Riesling wine. To learn more and to ask questions about organic wine Washington State, speak to a knowledgeable staff member today by calling 1-503-863-5454.