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Vicky Scharlau (left) of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers and Robin Pollard of the Washington Wine Commission are looking for industry input.

Vicky Scharlau (left) of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers and Robin Pollard of the Washington Wine Commission are looking for industry input.

Still experiencing fast-paced growth, Washington State’s wine industry is working to strengthen industry unity and collaboration as it addresses industry priorities. The number of bonded wineries in the state recently topped 475, and results of a state grape acreage survey to be released in January are expected to show increases above the previous 30,000 bearing acres.

Wine grape growers and wine producers attended the second annual Washington Wine Industry Summit in Kennewick, in November to provide input on the main industry priorities of research, education, legislative and regulatory issues, and marketing that were identified during last year’s meeting. The summit was sponsored by the primary trade groups for the industry—Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers, Washington Wine Commission, and Washington Wine Institute.

Robin Pollard, executive director of the institute and commission, explained that the purpose of the second summit was to seek input as industry groups address priorities. “Last year we identified the four main issues. Now we’re going from the big picture of a year ago and beginning to drill down. We’re going from the broad to the basics and specifics of these priorities.”

Vicky Scharlau, executive director of the grape grower association, said it is important to build for the future and to communicate to make sure there are shared goals. “It matters that we are not duplicating efforts between the industry groups. It matters that we get your input.”

Pollster Stuart Elway of Elway Research, Inc., in Seattle, Washington, gathered industry input through the use of handheld interactive polling devices that allowed the audience to rate the importance of various issues, such as seeking additional funds for research, evaluating the educational program through a needs assessment of industry, and factors most important to wineries expanding into new markets.