Washington State Wine Country: The Beginner’s Guide

Posted by on Nov 22, 2012 in Wine Activities, Wine Store Blog | 0 comments

Washington State Wine Country: The Beginner’s Guide

When some people think about a wine getaway, they immediately assume they'll be booking a flight across the ocean to somewhere in Europe. After all, French or Italian wines are some of the best, right?

No argument there. France and Italy makes some wonderful wines.

But, if you live in Western Canada or the Western United States, Washington is a fantastic place to book a wine tour or a wine getaway. It's close, local, and you'll speak the language.

Washington State has a fairly lengthy history of wine production. More than that, the region produces diverse wines.

Today, we're going to take a close look at this unique wine region.


How Washington State Wine Country Started

Our story starts all the way back in the 1800's with the Hudson's Bay Company. While in Fort Vancouver, Hudson's Bay Company people planted grapes. This was the first time the region ever saw this specific kind of agriculture.

But, it certainly wasn't the last. Immigrants slowly caught on to the idea.

By 1910, eighty-five years after the first grapes were planted, immigrants from France, Italy, and Germany had all started vineyards. Most of the state had grapes growing somewhere close by.

Grapes in Washington took some time to take off, however. After the Hudson's Bay Company started matters, there wasn't much support to produce good-quality grapes.

When the 1900's started, grape quality started to go up.

Why? A few important factors. Larger-scale irrigation systems helped water the grapes more efficiently. And snowcap runoff from the Cascade Mountains helped too. Once irrigation had been improved, the rich volcanic soil nutrients took care of the rest.

1910 was an important date for the region. That was the first year of the River Valley Grape Carnival. It was a short-lived carnival, though, since prohibition laws came into effect in 1920.

Prohibition took its toll. No question there. But, after prohibition had been over for 5 years, wineries were making a distinct comeback. 1938 saw 42 wineries throughout Washington State Wine Country.

Twenty-two years later, in 1960, the first commercial winery got its start. Ever heard of Columbia Winery or Chateau St. Michelle? That's them. And that was only the beginning for the region.

The wine industry in Washington State is alive and well. On average, a new winery opens every 15 days. And we're up to more than 740 producing wineries so far.

While it's a younger wine-making region, it's definitely making a name for itself. In America, only California out-produces Washington.

You can find Washington wines in all 50 U.S. states, and in 40 countries.


Next time, we'll take a look at the regions of Washington State Wine Country. It'll be a great starting point to plan a Washington State wine tour.

About Dave Keighron

Dave Keighron has written 63 posts in this blog.

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