Wonders in Washington: Another Big Harvest


The wine gods have been kind to the evergreen state. 
Forecasts for Washington's 2014 wine harvest estimate a haul of more than 230,000 tons, nearly double what winemakers harvested just three years ago. The steady growth  follows up a 2013 harvest in which total tonnage rose 12 percent fro the previous year.
Several factors have continued to the success of the 2014 harvest. According to Great Northwest Wine (GNW), weather has been on the side of the vines this year. 
Using the Growing Degree-Days method, climatologists who spoke with GNW this fall said there has been a significant leap in overall temperatures this year, which, combined with a lack of rainfall have produced temperatures whose average is about 15 percent higher than what was recorded between 1981 and 2010.
“Wine grape harvest is underway through the Northwest, with many producers getting an early start due to favorable growing conditions,” Northwest Farm Credit Services (NFCS) reported in a press release at the beginning of the fall season. “Similar to 2013, the early onset of harvest was driven by a warm  spring and sustained higher average temperatures during the summer months.”
An increase in vineyard blocks has also contributed to the rising harvest numbers. The state's total amount of vineyard area is currently above 45,000 acres.
“Although favorable conditions have proven to be the primary catalyst for record harvest levels,” NFCS said, “high demand for vineyard acreage in Washington and Oregon and heavy investment in vineyard development in previous years have also contributed to record crop levels.”
The 2014 harvest season's success is indicative of a steady climb in overall tonnage dating back to 1997, the genesis of Washington's rise to one of the country's premier winemaking state.
In 1997, the state harvested 62,000 tons of grapes, with Chardonnay, Merlot, white Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon leading the way. At the time, the state had 16,812 planted acres with an average yield of 3.69 tons per acre.
Five years later, production had nearly doubled. In 2002, the state harvested 115,000 tons of grapes. More than 30 percent of that harvest was Chardonnay. Merlot accounted for about 20 percent of the harvest. The state's per-acre yield was 4.64. 
Overall tonnage fluctuated in the following four years before seeing marked increases beginning in 2007.
The majority of Washington's grape growers are located in the state's eastern expanse, where 350 wine grape growers produce 12.5 million cases of wine a year. Washington is the country's second-largest producer of wine.
Photo Credit: Washington Wine

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