Yakima Valley Grapes
The first wine grapes in Washington were planted by the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver in 1825. By the year 1910, grapes were being planted all over the state, following on the heels of early German, French, and Italian settlers. There has since been a continuous and cooperative effort to cultivate a diverse variety of quality wine grapes.
Yakima Valley started making its mark on the winemaking scene in Washington by 1914. Several high-profile vineyards were producing some of the state’s best grapes, and the public was taking notice.
A Creative Spark
When Prohibition hit in 1920, it took a toll on winemakers everywhere, including Washington State. A serendipitous effect of this was the surge of interest in home winemaking. When prohibition ended, Stretch Island on Puget Sound became home to the Northwest’s first bonded winery. There were 42 wineries operating throughout the state by 1938, many getting their grape supplies from Yakima Valley growers.
The first commercial plantings in Yakima Valley began officially during the 1960s, and rapid expansion into the 1970s set the stage for a virtual explosion of the state’s wine industry. Today, new wineries are appearing throughout the state at a truly remarkable pace.
A True Winemaking Vision
Those determined home winemakers and dedicated farmers who defied Prohibition made the path for today’s $3 billion industry in Washington State. Wine from Washington is enjoyed in all 50 states and over 40 countries around the globe today. Washington also ranks second behind California for wine production with over 40,000 acres dedicated to the cultivation of premium wine grapes. Vinifera, Sirah, Riesling, and Merlot top the list of varietals grown throughout the region with smaller representations of numerous other varietals and hybrids being cultivated by both commercial and hobbyist growers.
Commitment to Quality Through Education
The Washington Wine Quality Alliance (WWQA) was established in 1999 in an effort to develop and introduce standards for winemaking and labeling throughout the state. In 2003, the state made an investment of $2.3 million to establish Associate- and Bachelor-level degree programs in support of Washington’s expanding wine industry.
Washington’s degree program is helping the state add to its workforce more knowledgeable professionals whose objective is to perpetuate and enhance the state’s winemaking industry from the growers to the winemakers and everyone involved in the process. All of this lends to the state’s reputation as a serious winemaking presence in the United States.
Yakima Valley and the Future
Washington State’s winemaking future is bright to say the least, and the contribution of Yakima Valley growers and winemakers is invaluable in perpetuating the state’s reputation as a serious player in a global wine industry.