Washington is commonly known for being home to the first Starbucks, but coffee isn’t the only beverage the state is popular for. Washington is a premium wine producing region. Although Washington State has a relatively young wine industry, it is the nation’s second largest wine producer and ranks among the world’s top wine regions. Washington wines can be found in all 50 states and in more than 40 countries around the globe.
Winemakers from Italy to Australia, and everywhere in between have established themselves in Washington. They have crafted unique wines that reflect the distinct characteristics of the region, and are consistently receiving praise from regional, national and international critics for their high quality hand-crafted wines. Washington receives a higher percentage of high scores from the top wine publications than other leading wine regions.
Short History of Washington Wine
Washington’s wine history dates all the way back to 1825 when the Hudson’s Bay Company planted the first grapes at Fort Vancouver. In 1854, hybrid varieties had already arrived on scene in the Puget Sound region, and by 1860 wine grapes were planted in Walla Walla Valley. French, German and Italian immigrants established early planting, and by 1910 wine grapes were plentiful in many areas of the state.
Runoff from the melting snowcaps of the Cascade Mountains allowed for large-scale irrigation that rapidly fueled the expansion of the wine grape acreage in the early part of the 20th century. The first annual Columbia River Valley Grape Carnival in Kennewick was held in 1910.
The onset of Prohibition in 1920 deterred wine production in Washington. However, as luck would have it, this inspired an interest in home winemaking and by the end of Prohibition, the first winery was established on Puget Sound’s Stretch Island. The industry continued to mature and there were 42 wineries by 1938. The first commercial-scale plantings began in the 1960s.