There are now more than 1,000 wineries in Washington state
Raise a glass to Washington! Vintners across the Evergreen State are celebrating a milestone as the number of wineries expands past 1,000.
“It shows the long-term viability of the wine industry, it demonstrates the strength of it and the continued growth of the wine industry,” said Steve Warner, president of Washington State Wine, which represents the licensed wineries in the state. “We also passed, in 2018, a milestone of $2.4 billion of revenue, associated with that is roughly estimated about $7 billion of in-state economic impact.”
In the 1980s, there were about 20 wineries in Washington. By 2000, there were 74. More recently, Warner says, the state has been adding roughly about 40 new winery licenses a year. As of October 2019, there are 1,010 active winery licenses in the state.
The honor of number 1,000 goes to Uva Furem, which is owned by Jens Hansen, originally from Wenatchee and is retired from the Air Force. He now produces wine out of Maple Valley.
“I feel like the Washington wine community is a lot like the Air Force in that everyone looks out for each other,” Hansen said. “Everyone works together to get the mission done, and the mission here is to make really great wine.”
Along with the rise in wineries has come vineyard space in Washington. Warner notes that just a couple decades ago, there was about 24,000 acres of wine growing operations with 70,000 tons of grapes. In 2018, there were more than 59,000 acres of vineyards producing 260,000 tons of grapes. Washington State Wine estimates that the growing potential in the state can expand to about 200,000 acres in the next few decades.
“As we actually rose in the quality realm, we started gaining not only national notoriety, but global notoriety for the quality of our wines,” Warner said. “I think that sparked the growth of the wine industry. If you look at the growth number since 2012, we’ve nearly doubled the number of active winery licenses. And I think that is directly related to 10 year span in Wine Spectator reviews, for example, where we had the highest average percentage of 90 plus rated wines, compared to some major wine producing regions in the world, including Italy and Spain and California.”
One factor that has helped the region is that Washington has conditions that can grow a diversity of grapes, leading to a range of different wines.
“We can grow up to 70 different varieties in this state because there are so many different, unique wine growing regions across the state, we are a pretty big state,” Warner said.
“About 2/3 of our wine is sold nationally,” he added. “We do quite well selling Washington wine within Washington, except for in the greater Seattle area. We have so many people that aren’t from here living here now that they may not have grown up with Washington state wine. So we are doing our best to spread the love with them.”