What's great in wine, beer, fine dining,
places to stay, & places to visit
in Washington State

What Makes Washington Different

Tuesday, 28 April 2020 19:26
Wine tasters enjoy a spectacular setting above the Columbia at Maryhill Winery in Goldendale. Wine tasters enjoy a spectacular setting above the Columbia at Maryhill Winery in Goldendale.

TASTE News Service, April 27, 2020  – The Washington wine industry recently announced that the state now boasts over 1000 wineries.

The nation’s second largest wine producer currently includes 14 different appellations, defined as American Viticultural Areas or AVAs.  These regions share some similarities, but also reflect distinctive differences.  Taste Washington Travel accessed the following basic information from the Washington Wine Commission. We thought these explanations might benefit wine fans—and not-quite-yet wine fans—who are enjoying our publication.  

Distinctive and Diverse Growing Regions and Soils

Washington has 14 federally approved unique growing regions cultivating a diversity of climates, soil types, and growing conditions that allow a wide variety of grapes to grow well. These range from warm sites such as Red Mountain (sometimes approaching Climate Region III, 3000-3500 Growing Degree Days) to cool regions like the Puget Sound (Climate Region I, up to 2500 GDDs) and areas in between. The relationship to the Missoula Floods, a series of cataclysmic events, defines the soil types of the vineyards in Washington. Most vineyards lie below the floodwaters with soils of loess—wind-blown deposits of sand and silt— overlying gravel and slackwater sediment with basalt forming the bedrock. This provides a diversity of soil types that are well drained and ideal for viticulture.

Large Diurnal Shift Preserves Natural Acidity

Long, warm days and cool nights in the growing regions create a large diurnal shift, which helps maintain the natural acidity of the grapes. Washington State has some of the most dramatic fluctuations of any wine region in the world with up to 40º F difference between daytime high and nighttime low temperatures. The higher levels of natural acidity contribute to making the wines more food friendly and also assist with their longevity.

Wineries Are Often Separated from Vineyards

In the traditional grape-growing model, wineries are located next to or close to their vineyard sources. Washington, generally, completely breaks this model. Many wineries are located dozens and even hundreds of miles from the vineyards they work with. Additionally, many contract their grapes rather than establishing their own vineyards. This gives the wineries a number of advantages. First, purchasing grapes minimizes the startup time for a winery and has enabled the industry’s rapid growth. Second, it allows wineries to set up shop wherever they like, be it near the consumer hub of Seattle or in the far reaches of the state that they call home. Third, not being tied to a single vineyard source in a single location means that wineries can experiment with vineyards all across Washington. They can make a wine that blends, say, Cabernet Sauvignon from the Horse Heaven Hills with Merlot from Red Mountain and Petit Verdot from the Wahluke Slope, in essence taking what they feel is the best from each location. Using a diversity of sites also helps keep quality consistent across vintages. Lastly, working with a diversity of sites in different locations also helps protect against disruptions caused by Washington’s occasional spring and fall frosts and winter freezes.

A Legion of Small, Family Producers

The vast majority of wineries in Washington are small, family producers making less than 5,000 cases annually. In fact, of the state’s 900+ wineries, only about 20 make more than 40,000 cases annually. The small, artisan nature of the industry contributes to producing wines of exceptional quality.

Last modified on Tuesday, 28 April 2020 19:39


Latest in Read

Latest in Visit

  • Farmers Mkts Open in Pierce Co.
    by Matt Wakefield Farmers markets have always been a seasonal mainstay in Pierce County, but right now, as much as any time in recent memory, it's a breath of fresh air to get outside in a safe environment, focus on community-grown food and locally made products, pick up some flowers…
    Written on Monday, 22 June 2020 17:48 in Drives & Destinations Read more...

Home | Contact | Phoenix Website Design by CitrusKiwi

Copyright © 2015 - 2020. Taste Washington Travel. All rights reserved.  |  TWT Staff | Privacy policy