If you feel like new wineries keep springing up all over the state, you’re not wrong. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) recently announced the state had reached a historic threshold of more than 1,000 active winery licenses.
This is a far cry from the humble beginnings the industry saw in the early 1980s with only 20 wineries in the state. By 2000, that number had grown to more than 70 wineries. Today, the robust industry contributes more than $7 billion to the state’s economy and generates approximately $2.4 billion in revenue.
“To think about where we started and where we are today is absolutely thrilling,” Steve Warner, President of Washington State Wine, said in a statement.
Acreage of Washington vineyards also continues to grow at a rapid pace. Historically, there were four American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) producing 24,000 acres of wine grapes and 70,000 tons of grapes. Today, the state boasts more than 59,000 acres of vineyards across 14 AVAs that last year produced 260,000 tons of grapes.
“We still have so much room to grow, both on the winery and vineyard side,” Warner said. “Washington is the new epicenter of wine – and truly, still just getting started.”
The historic 1,000th winery was that of Air Force retiree Jens Hansen. Originally from Wenatchee, Hansen moved west to attend the Northwest Wine Academy in Seattle and now owns an old honeybee farm in Maple Valley where he plans to open his Uva Furem tasting room next year.
“I feel like the Washington wine community is a lot like the Air Force in that everyone looks out for each other,” Hansen said. “Everyone works together to get the mission done, and the mission here is to make really great wine.”