Record grape harvest helps Washington wines gain international attention

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Washington state produced 270,000 tons of wine grapes last year, a 22 percent increase over 2015 and a record harvest for the state.

All those grapes are contributing to the state’s standing as the second-largest wine-producing region in the U.S.

Chateau Ste. Michelle is the state’s largest wine producer with 14.73 million gallons produced in 2016, according to data from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

The winery’s president and CEO, Ted Baseler, said since he first joined the business 33 years ago, he’s seen the region grow from three-dozen wineries to more than 900.

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Back then, when he talked about Washington wine, people’s first reaction was that he must be talking about Washington, D.C., he said in an exclusive interview with the PSBJ. Today, the state has a reputation of producing outstanding wines. One of the most popular is cabernet sauvignon.

The state’s top producing variety, cabernet sauvignon, made up 26 percent of the total 270,000 tons produced.

Of all the grapes harvested by Washington growers in 2016, cabernet sauvignon showed the largest increase. Growers received about $1,442 per ton for cabernet sauvignon grapes, down $85 from the previous year. Malbecs, the fifth largest red varietal harvested, brings in the highest dollar, an average of $1,587 per ton.


Where is all this wine going? Wineries are finding a niche in the international market. About 5 percent of the state’s wine gets exported overseas, according to data from the Washington Wine Commission, which presents a growth opportunity for the industry. Last year, Washington state exported $27.3 million worth of wine, according to federal trade data.

Melissa Crowe is the research director for the Puget Sound Business Journal and oversees all List content.