Description 1 of 2

 

Washington State has become the second largest wine producer in the US, however its quality wine history is fairly new. The first wine grapes were planted in Fort Vancouver by the Hudson Bay Company in 1825. By the early 20th century, many European immigrants were producing wines of decent quality. By 1914, vineyards were dotting Yakima and Walla Walla Valleys. 
 
But the Prohibition halted commercial production considerably, even though this also forced a wave of home wine-making. After the Repeal, strict laws were set in place that isolated Washington’s wine industry. Even though some vinifera wines were being produced for private consumption, what emerged from Washington was only sweet and dessert wine made from Concord grapes. These same laws also prohibited California wines, so the majority of Washingtonians only drank what they knew, those sweet Concord wines. 
 
Then in the early 1960s scientists Walter Clore and Chas Nagel won an appeal to overturn the wine restrictions. They argued that Washington had enormous potential for quality vinifera wine production and could easily give California some steady competition if given the opportunity. They reasoned that Washington shares the same latitude as many of Europe’s renown regions, has long direct sunlight hours (two more than California) and isn’t prone to the same diseases and insects. The only downside is susceptibility to frost, but at least the vines could be salvaged for the following season. The laws were overturned.
 
The Cascade Mountains create a rain shadow effect, blocking the wet conditions on the other side from the Pacific Ocean. The Columbia, Walla Walla, Snake and Yakima rivers provide much-needed irrigation, air circulation and cooling conditions. Ice Age floods left behind layers of sandy, volcanic soils which favor grape-growing and repel Phylloxera (along with the cold winters). This means grapes are grown from single root stocks instead of the hybrids found in most of the world to prevent the spread of Phylloxera. 
 
Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and Chardonnay are the most popular varietals cultivated. These benefit from a long growing season that promotes proper phenolic balance in the grapes. 
 
The regions within Washington State are:
-Columbia Gorge
-Columbia Valley (which includes the AVA’s Horse Heaven Hills, Lake Chelan, Wahluke Slope, Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley)
-Puget Sound
-Spokane County
 
~Amanda Schuster

 

– Description from Amanda Schuster

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Description 2 of 2

Washington’s viticultural history dates back to 1825, when the Hudson’s Bay Company planted the first wine grapes, and by the start of the 20th century every corner of the state was planted with vines. Prohibition put a stop to it, and for decades following the protectionist policies of the state liquor control board ensured that only cheap, sweet wines, punched up to 18 or 19 percent alcohol with bags of sugar, were made. The laws changed in the late 1960s, but as recently as the mid-1970s there were only a half dozen wineries in the state, and only two survive today. The first commercially available vinifera wines were made in 1967 by those same wineries, Ste. Michelle and Columbia (then called Associated Vintners). Washington’s vineyards are almost entirely irrigated, as the state’s eastern half is mostly desert. Major rivers – the Yakima, the Columbia and the Snake – provide water and define most of the AVA borders. The sandy soils and cold winters have proven resistant to the plague of phylloxera, and Washington is unique in the country in that vines are not grafted onto different rootstock. Though initially it was believed that Washington’s winters were too cold for most vinifera grapes to survive, that has been proven wrong. Better clones, better vineyard management, the judicious use of irrigation and the ongoing exploration of favorable vineyard sites has opened the doors to world class grapes and wines of almost every conceivable variety. Today, Washington has almost 450 wineries of all sizes. Among the state’s geographic advantages are extra sunlight hours during the growing season (on average, two more hours a day than in California), few if any problems with rain, mold, mildew or rot, and an extended autumn that allows grapes to hang well into October and even November. The fruit attains optimal ripening, while maintaining natural acidity. Washington, more than any other place in the U.S., bridges the gap between traditional Old World winemaking and the pumped-up, sweet and sappy wines of much of the New World. ~ Paul Gregutt – Description from Appellation America (view original content)

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