Washington wineries have the distinction of being in the region that is second only to California in wine production in the nation. Tens of tons of grapes are harvested from vineyards in Eastern Washington and beyond to make more than 10 million gallons of different varieties of Washington wines a year, enough to rival the output of Napa Valley, California.
Washington wines have distinctions that set them apart from other US and European wines. There still are, however, wines for everyone. Washington wineries range from the delicious high volume wines to the smaller family wineries that win over guests with their intimate tasting rooms and offbeat locations. There are close to two hundred Washington wineries in the state, with a new one opening about every two weeks, so a Washington winery map is a useful thing to have.
Almost a third of the grapes planted to create a Washington state wine are red grapes. White wines used to be the biggest product of Washington wineries, but now the Merlot grape is most popular, due to its classic, approachable taste and rising demand for red wines. Yakima Valley and Walla Walla are two areas that see the most of the wineries, which are producing excellent Washington wines. Columbia Valley is the area that Yakima and Walla Walla are in, which is protected from the colder, rainy weather by the Cascade Mountains. Thanks to the shield of the mountains, the rainfall in the valley is light, heaven for a Columbia winery.
A small amount of rain allows the producers of Washington state wine to control the growing conditions with irrigation techniques. The summer month sees abundant sunshine and warm temperatures, which can rise into the 80"s during the day. In the fall, when the grapes ripen, the cool temperatures help to protect the acidity of the grapes, so that the ripening occurs under the perfect conditions.
The Yakima Valley, is 30 miles of verdant farmland stretching from the Tri-Cities to Yakima. There are over 30 small producers of Washington wines in this area alone.
You will find many of these areas are working on improving their images as destinations for tourists. While many wineries are located far from major cities, options for lodging, food, and sightseeing are increasing every year and often yield a fine vacation experience.
A large family owned winery is Preston Vineyards. Other Washington wineries to enjoy a good reputation are the Château St Michelle. This is another Columbia winery that is one of the most popular makers of Washington state wine. Château St Michelle has concerts, classes, dinners and a wine club.
Walla Walla is a region that is developing its own notoriety. It has distinguished wineries like Canoe Ridge, which is a widely popular merlot. This is more like a sprawling country resort built inside what used to be an engine house. The strategic location of the Canoe Ridge vineyard means that the grapes stay 10 degrees warmer than surrounding wineries, so these grapes have more time to ripen.
Cold Creek, Indian Wells, and Horse Heaven are three other excellent wineries that are on par with Chateau St Michelle, not in its incredible setting but it the quality of it wines. On weekends you will find the well-heeled residents of the area exploring the vineyards searching for a delicious Washington state wine.
The wines of Washington are of such quality that they now rival the top world class wines, so a visit there will allow you to taste some of the best wines around.