Washington State Wine Seminar
Washington State wine history began in 1825 when the first grapes arrived to Fort Vancouver by the Hudson Bay Co. one of the oldest commercial corporations in the US, fur trade
By 1860’s grapes and hybrids were harvested all the way to Walla Walla
On the western side grapes were being grown on Stretch Island in Puget Sound using Island Belle grapes
Eastern Washington was making field blends with Zinfandel, Muscat and
Alicanté Bouschet. At this point Washington State wine was sweet and simple
Italian, French & German immigrants began harvesting in 1910’s.
Irrigation from the Cascade mountains allowed settlers to venture east.
1910 the first annual Columbia River Valley Grape Carnival
1920 PROHIBITION…wine production came to a halt
1934 The Washington State Liquor act was passed. Allowing only wine and beer to be served by the glass in a restaurant or tavern. Nothing over 17% Alcohol.
This led to wineries making sweet high alcoholic wines to suit the public’s
need for alcohol
Out of state wines were taxed heavily and allowed wineries to sell direct to retail shops
1937 42 wineries were licensed, mostly making fruit wines not grape
By 1938 the 1st Northwest winery was founded in Puget Sound and Washington was home to about 42 other wineries
Slowly laws governing alcohol levels became more lenient, fortified wines began to replace fruity 17% wines
1950’s Associated Vintners…a small group of wine makers from Washington State University with intentions of making dry wines. The beginning of Washington State wine.
1962 they buy a vineyard, Harrison Hill in the Yakima Valley and begin experimenting with varieties
Late 1960’s Leon Adam’s (author of Wines of America) goes to the Yakima Valley and tries a rose of Grenache
He meets with Victor Allison (manager for American Wine Growers) and suggests a good California winemaker can make a great wine in Washington.
Allison brings André Tchelistcheff to Washington and makes a Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Semillon
1969 California Wine Bill passed…Washington State wine in California
1970’s Associated vintner and AWG’s Chateau Ste. Michelle are making single varieties.
US Tobacco buys Ste. Michelle and expands into eastern Washington
1980’s Associated vintner becomes Columbia Winery
An increase of family owned wineries
Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Patterson Winery becomes Columbia Crest and invests $25 million a 50% increase in vineyards.
National acclaim from the boutique wineries
The first AVA’s were named: Yakima Valley, Walla Walla and Columbia Valley
German Company, F.W. Langguth family invests in Riesling in the desert, today known as Wahluke Slope
The Washington State Wine Commission & Washington Wine Institute are founded to promote growth
1988 Chateau Ste. Michelle is named “Best American Winery” by Wine Country magazine
1989 5 wineries make the Wine Spectator’s “Top 100 list”
By 1989 number of wineries tripled
1991 60 minutes aired “French Paradox” wine had health benefits and should be drunk with a meal.
Red wine was good to drink, contrary to people’s belief
Merlot was the new wine for the public
In 1991 the Washington State Wine Commission held a conference and chose Merlot as it’s focus
Cabernet Sauvignon belonged to California, Merlot was French and easy to pronounce
Columbia Crest eventually became the countries leading producer of Merlot.
Boutique Merlot began costing $$$$
Syrah from Red Willow began to get recognition
In 1996 another freeze destroyed Merlot, however Syrah survived
More wine makers began planting Syrah
In the 2000’s Washington State wine was taken more seriously and pushed for a growth in the industry. The plan was to promote more grape-growing to promote economic growth
More AVA’s were founded In 2001 there were 155 wineries by 2009 there were 655.
Woodenville promotes wine to Seattle and outside visitors. Today many Eastern Washington wineries have tasting rooms in Woodenville.
Today second largest wine-producing state in the US behind California
750 wineries, 43,000 acres, 12 AVA’s and 12 million cases produced