Washington wine industry moving forward
Washington’s wine industry is coming off a banner year, with strong grower prices, increasing acreage, and new wineries added.
Washington State grape growers have added 2,000 acres in the last year, bringing the statewide total to an estimated 40,000 acres.
The mood of growers and vintners was upbeat at the February 9-11 annual convention and trade show of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers in Kennewick, no doubt a reflection of strong prices received by growers for last fall’s harvest and signs that retail wine sales are again moving after a downturn due to the slumping economy.
Washington’s wine industry is coming off a banner year, with 700 wineries now bonded in the state, up from 360 wineries five years ago. Industry officials estimate that 2,000 acres of wine grapes were planted last year, bringing the statewide total to about 40,000 acres, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture. And, despite weather challenges during harvest, the 2010 crop was a record high at 160,000 tons, up 3 percent from the previous year.
Recently released figures from the National Agricultural Statistics Service show that production of red and white varieties were almost evenly split in 2010—total white varieties harvested were 80,100 tons and total red varieties were 79,900 tons. Riesling was the most produced white; Cabernet Sauvignon was the top red. Most grapes are produced under contract with wineries, but cash prices were up from 2009. Growers received an average of $1,040 per ton for all varieties, an increase of $51 per ton from the previous year. Malbec, with 1,100 tons harvested, was the highest priced variety at $1,540 per ton, due to strong demand and short supply.
The NASS also reported that 176,000 tons of juice grapes were harvested in Washington in 2010, down significantly from 225,000 tons harvested in 2009. The average cash price for the juice grapes was $269 per ton.
Robin Pollard, head of the Washington Wine Commission, said that “We’re still growing at a phenomenal rate, and awareness of Washington State as a premium wine region has never been higher.” Several prestigious wine and food magazines gave the region notoriety in the last two years by naming a Washington winemaker and winery as the Winemaker of the Year and Best New Winery, naming a Washington State wine as its number one pick on its top 100 list, and devoting a cover story to Washington State.