Wines of Washington (Wow!) And the Next 25 Years

Checking in with several key players in Washington wine from across the state to see how they think the wines of Washington will wow us next.

Published: 12/23/2012

A quarter century has passed since the Washington State Wine Commission was established in 1987. Its purpose remains clear: to give a voice to every winery and grape grower, and to champion the marketing goals of the Washington state wine industry. Time has flown and the reputation of Washington wine has substantially grown. The latest official figures from 2012 report 43,000+ planted vineyard acres: 12 million cases produced, and 700+ licensed wineries. There were only 40 or so 25 years ago. Washington State ranks second only to California in total wine production in the United States.

So where do they go from here? We asked Steve Warner, President and CEO of the Washington State Wine Commission. “Our biggest goals for the next 25 years of Washington wine include continued planting and development of vineyard acres in the state to keep up with our growing demand for Washington wine across the nation and the world,” Steve says. “The completion of the Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities and the research accomplished there will help to keep us growing, sustainably and efficiently. We will continue our work to support wine country tourism and envision greater development of the tourism industry, including new restaurants, hotels, and attractions. And here at the commission, we’ll continue to fly the flag of Washington wine, telling the world about our superior quality and balanced wines.”

We also checked in with several key players in Washington wine from across the state to see how they think the wines of Washington will wow us next.

Brian Carter, Winemaker

“You can’t help but be excited about what has happened to the Washington State Wine industry over the last 30-plus vintages I have been lucky to have been a part of. Still, the real excitement is for the future, not the past. I think we are poised to hit another period of growth over the next decade: more acres of vines and more wineries starting up. I think it is safe to say that the best vineyards are yet to be planted and certainly the best wines are yet to be made here in Washington.”

John Bookwalter, Owner and Winemaker

“I think the State of Washington will see significant qualitative and quantitative growth both in total acres planted and in production of wines by new and existing wineries. Really, doubling of production is not out of the question. There will also be a high rate of adoption of Washington wines throughout the United States by a diverse group of consumers. I also predict there will be a sizable investment in the infrastructure on the hospitality side of the wine industry throughout Washington, but more importantly in Eastern Washington, introducing more restaurants, more boutique hotels, and more consumer facing retail tasting rooms at wineries.”

Ken Cain General Manager, Director of Sales

“Looking ahead, I think the future of Lake Chelan Valley is very bright, with quality wines produced by some very talented and creative winemakers. As the wine industry in Washington expands and the number of wineries grows, the number of discretionary dollars available from consumers will spread out. Those wineries with well-established reputations will continue to thrive, and those with large marketing budgets or larger production levels will dominate the retail markets. This leaves the smaller wineries to be innovative in their marketing and creative in their winemaking. I think Washington and Lake Chelan are up to the challenge.”

Greg Fries, Co-owner/Director of Winemaking

“The future has never been brighter for Washington wines. I believe Washington will continue to lead the field in the quality-price ratio (QPR), regardless of the price point of the wine. A $10 wine from Washington will be among the best $10 wines you can find anywhere; the same goes for a $60 or $80 bottle of Washington wine.”

Kim Roberts, Co-owner

“I think Washington wineries—as much as the wines—are incredibly approachable and each has a unique story. We are also a close-knit group committed to sharing “secrets” in order to keep our state’s reputation extraordinary. We are witnessing the second generation of growers and producers step into leadership positions and that’s exciting too. At Westport Winery we are deliberating developing deeper relationships with the pioneering growers who, like us, are transitioning their family business to their kids. We believe this mutual experience and exchange will cement incredible legacies and partnerships in the future.”

Ted Baseler, President and CEO

“As premium wine consumption in the US continues to increase, the growth of Washington State wine will very likely out- pace the national trend. Our state’s growers and wineries will continue to earn global acclaim—such as our recent #1 rating on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list, along with several perfect 100-point ratings from leading wine publications—and this recognition will continue to drive strong growth in wine tourism to regions across the state.”

Christophe Hedges, Sales and Marketing

“I think there will be a move to improve accommodations and dining in Eastern Washington State. I also see a move back to the vineyards, a resurgence of estate-grown and bottled wineries. The phenomenon of the tasting room winery, which shows a majority presence in Washington State, will stabilize. I also believe Red Mountain, as well as other AVAs, will be surrounded by more wine- influenced cities, with an emphasis on authenticity, and not short-term thinking—what I call, a move back to the land.” 

As seen in the issue Spring 2013 of Touring & Tasting Magazine.