Uncork a bottle and raise a glass – Washington state deserves a toast for its thriving wine sector.
Home to more than 740 wineries and some 350 vineyards, Washington is the second-largest wine producer in the United States. The industry brings in more than $8.6 billion annually, and is responsible for more than 27,000 jobs in the state. Since 2005, state has increased its vineyards by more than 43 percent to above 43,000 acres today.
While Eastern Washington grows the majority of the state's grapes, wineries are a statewide business -- and passion.
“The wine industry really crosses the entire state,” says Ryan Pennington, communications director for the Washington State Wine Commission. “Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville is known as the founding winery, and now the entire region of Walla Walla has become a premier wine destination with more than 100 wineries.”
Located less than 20 miles from Seattle, Chateau Ste. Michelle spans 105 acres and features two wineries focusing on white and red wines, respectively.
"I love making wine in Washington because of the fascinating, unique grape-growing conditions and the pioneering spirit of our amazing growers,” says Bob Bertheau, head winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle.
The state's wide variety of wineries is also positively impacting area tourism. More than 2.4 million visitors head to Washington's wineries and vineyards each year, generating an economic impact of $1.1 billion.
“Having a healthy wine sector makes the state more attractive,” Pennington says. “We're not just selling a product – it's a way of life.”
Given the success in recent years, it's no surprise that, on average, a new winery opens up every two weeks.
“The industry has seen truly phenomenal growth, especially over the last five to 10 years,” Pennington says. “We certainly expect we will continue to see strong growth.”