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Washington Wineries, Wines
Wine Country

     In recent years, Washington's wine industry has become the fastest-growing agricultural sector in the state. The number of  Washington wineries has increased 400% in the last decade, attracting millions of visitors to Washington wine country every year and creating a multi-million dollar wine-tourism industry.

       Located on approximately the same latitude (46ºN) as some of the great French wine regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy, Washington State wine country now includes 14 federally recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), commonly known as appellations.  Three of them share territory with Oregon State; one is shared with Idaho. 

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WinesNorthwest users get a $20.00 discount off an
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       Climates of individual Washington wine regions differ dramatically.  Cross cut north to south by the Cascade Mountains, Washington State is more mild and lush to the west of this volcanically formed barrier than the lands to its east.  In fact, the Puget Sound AVA/appellation is the only officially recognized wine region on the west side of the Cascades.  Currently, only about 1% of the state's wine grapes are grown here, and a correspondingly small number of Washington wineries produce wines from those locally grown grapes.  In the cool-climate viticultural areas of the Puget Sound, eastbound marine air masses drift over the ridges of the Coast Range and flow toward the Cascade range.  Clouds must rise to continue their eastward heading, and temperatures decrease as elevation increases causing moisture to fall as rain or snow before the north-south barrier of the Cascade ridges is breached.  Very little moisture reaches the east side of these towering mountains, and a "rain shadow" effect keeps more than half of Washington State's territory arid to semi-arid. 

       The resulting dry climate combines with long daylight hours at this northern latitude to create prime wine-growing conditions in the lands of eastern Washington.  Vineyard canopies can be controlled by irrigation management and grapes can fully ripen here, bringing complex fruit flavors, good acid levels and pleasing aromatics to Washington wines. 


       Vineyards on the east side of the Cascades grow about 99% of Washington's wine grapes, and 13 of the state's 14 official AVAs/appellations are located here.  The macro appellation of the Columbia Valley encompasses the smaller AVAs of Yakima Valley, Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain, Walla Walla Valley, The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater (sub appellation of the Walla Walla Valley, but entirely within Oregon State), Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope, Snipes Mountain and Naches Heights.  The Columbia Gorge AVA begins at the western edge of the Columbia Valley AVA and continues west and south to areas along the Columbia River in both Oregon and Washington

     Other emerging and recently authorized wine regions benefit from the huge rain shadow created by the Cascade Mountains -- the Lake Chelan AVA, the Ancient Lakes of the Columbia Valley AVA in north-central Washington, and the Columbia River region near Wenatchee.  The latter is pursuing AVA status to define their region as distinct from the Columbia Valley AVA that contains it.  Washington's 14th AVA - the Lewis-Clark Valley - is shared with Idaho.

   All totaled, Washington wine regions produce more wine grapes than any other state in the U.S. except California. 

Washington's Winemaking History

      Washington’s first wine grapes were planted in 1825.  By 1910, wine grapes were growing in most areas of the state, following the path of early settlers.  It was French, German and Italian immigrants who pioneered the earliest plantings.

       Large-scale irrigation, fueled by runoff from melting snowcaps of the Cascade Mountains, arrived in Eastern Washington in 1903 unlocking the dormant potential of the rich volcanic soils and warm, sunny desert-like climate. Italian and German varietals were planted in the Yakima and Columbia Valleys and wine grape acreage expanded rapidly in the early part of the 20th century. 

        The first commercial-scale plantings began in the 1960’s.  Early commercial producers mentored modern winemaking in the state.  The resulting rapid expansion of the industry in the mid-70’s is now rivaled by today’s breakneck pace, where a new winery opens every couple of weeks.  The trend started by a few home winemakers and visionary farmers has become a respected and influential industry.

Touring Washington's Wine Country Regions

      The map and links below allow you to explore Washington wineries within each Washington wine region.  Watch for links to suggested nearby lodging, dining, special events and touring opportunities as you explore the Wines Northwest pages of each region. Click on the region of your choice below to begin.

  Click on Map regions for more information about Washington appellations 

Official Washington Appellations/AVAs
  Link to Lake Chelan Region of Washington State Wine Country    Link to map of Rattlesnake Hills region           Walla Walla Wine Region  Yakima Valley Wine Region   
Link to Columbia Gorge wine region page  Puget Sound and Seattle Wine Region   Other Columbia Valley Regions  

Other Unofficial Wine Country Regions


Priority Wine PassTIP:  If you are making a plan to visit wine country any time soon, be sure to get The Priority Wine Pass first. In just five minutes, you can be saving on tasting fees and wine purchases at more than 350 participating wineries throughout Washington, Oregon and California. Your membership will more than pay for itself as it brings you an entire year of complimentary or 2-for-1 tastings, along with other deals from these premium wineries.

Washington's American Viticultural Areas (AVAs)

 Yakima Valley - 17,000 acres (as of 2016) in production, established 1983

Columbia Valley - Largest AVA in Washington. Shared with Oregon. Established in 1984
Walla Walla Valley - 1,304 acres in production.  Shared with Oregon.  Established 1984.

 Puget Sound
- 178 acres
in production, established 1995.

 Red Mountain
- 1,647 acres (as of 2016) in production, established 2001.
Columbia Gorge - 800 acres in production (2004).  Shared with Oregon.  Established 2004.

Horse Heaven Hills - 10,584 acres in production.  Established 2005.

Wahluke Slope - 6,645 acres in production.  Established 2006.

Rattlesnake Hills - 1,599 acres in production.  Established 2006.

Snipes Mountain -
807 acres (as of 2016) in production.  Established in 2009.

Lake Chelan - 247 acres in production.  Established
April 2009.
Naches Heights - 105 acres in production; 13,254 total acres.
Established January 2012.  Located on a volcanic plateau above
the city of Yakima.  Totally within the Columbia Valley AVA.

Ancient Lakes of the Columbia Valley - 1,399 acres in production,
established November 2012. 
Up to 3,000 acres - May 2016

Lewis-Clark Valley AVA - 81 acres in production; shared with Idaho.  A total of 306,658 acres
with 72% in Idaho and the balance in Washington. 
Established May 2016

Shared with Oregon

Columbia Gorge - 800 acres in production (2004).  Established 2004.

Columbia Valley -  Established 1984.
By far the largest AVA in Washington.  Encompasses Red Mountain,
Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Wahluke Slope, Rattlesnake Hills,
Horse Heaven Hills, Snipes Mountain, Naches Heights and Lake Chelan AVAs. 
It is home to more than 95% of the total vineyard acreage planted in Washington State.

 Walla Walla Valley - 1,304 acres in production.  Established 1984.

The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater - Entirely within Oregon State, this  Walla Walla Valley
sub-appellation contained 250 acres in production when established in February of 2015.

Shared with Idaho:

Lewis-Clark Valley AVA - 81 acres in production; a total of 306,658 acres
with 72% in Idaho and the balance in Washington. 
Established May 2016

Unofficial Wine Country Regions

Wenatchee Wine Country - pending AVA application
Royal Slope  - pending AVA application

Spokane Area - unofficial wine region
Leavenworth Area - unofficial wine region
North Central Washington - unofficial wine region

Grapes Harvested

2017 - 227,000 tons
57% Red  |  43% White

2016 - 270,000 tons
2015 - 222,000 tons
2014 - 227,000 tons
2013 - 210,000 tons
2012 - 188,000 tons
2011 - 142,000 tons
2010 - 156,000 tons
2009 - 165,000 tons
2008 - 145,000 tons
2007 - 127,150 tons
2006 - 120,500 tons
2005 - 110,000 tons 
2004 - 107,000 tons
2002 - 115,00 tons
2000 - 90,000 tons
1995 - 62,000 tons
1990 - 38,000 tons

Leading Varieties

Reds:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot,
Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec
Whites:  Chardonnay, White Riesling,
Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer

Additional Varieties

Aligoté, Barbera, Chenin Blanc, Cinsault, 
Dolcetto, Grenache, Lemberger, Madeleine Angevine,
Malbec, Mourvèdre, Müller-Thurgau, Muscats - assorted,
Nebbiolo, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot,
Pinot Noir, Rousanne, Sangiovese, Sémillon,
Siegerrebe, Tempranillo, Viognier,

Wine Production

17.5 million cases in 2017
50% white & 50% red

Industry's Statewide Economic Impact

Washington State's wine industry had a
total economic impact of $4.8 billion in
business revenues and $61.9 million
in state taxes in 2013.  It also supported more than
25,900 jobs throughout the state.
(Based on info from the August 2015 study
prepared by CAI, Community Attributes Inc)


Washington Wine Facts

*  Ranks 2nd nationally in premium
    wine production

*  Averages 17.4 hours of sunlight per
   day, about two hours more than in
   California's prime growing region.

*   Washington’s wine industry has a
    national economic impact of $15
    billion per year, according to a study
    released in April 2012
Stonebridge Research
of St. Helena, CA

Number of Licensed Wineries  
 2018 - 970+

2015 - 860
 2013 - 739
  2011 - 700+
2009 - 602
2008 - 550
2006 - 460  
2005 - 360  
2004 - 323    
2003 - 250  
2002 - 208  
 1999 - 144   
 1993  -  80   
 1986  -  38   
 1981 -  19   
1976  - 9    

Vinifera Acreage in Production

2016 - 60,000+ acres

2015 - 50,000 acres
2012 - 44,000 acres
2011 - 41,000 acres
2010 - 37,000 acres
2009 - 36,000 acres
2007 - 31,000 acres
2006 - 29,500 acres
2005 - 28,000 acres
2004 - 27,400 acres
2002 - 24,200 acres
1998 - 12,800 acres

1993 - 11,100
1969 -  469 acres      


Copyright © 1997 - April, 2020  Susan R. O'Hara. All rights reserved.
Last revised:  April 24, 2020