Wine grape production sets a new state record

KENNEWICK — The production of wine grapes set another state record this year, increasing 16 percent from last year’s record.

An estimated 218,000 tons of wine grapes were crushed this year, said Vicky Scharlau, executive director of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers.

“It is going to end up being an amazingly fabulous vintage of Washington wine,” Scharlau told the Tri-City Herald.

The total amount of Washington wine grapes, including white and red varieties, was up by about 30,000 tons from last year, when wineries crushed about 188,000 tons. Last year’s crop was 32 percent larger than it was in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The growth is no surprise because of the additional acres that have been planted, Scharlau said.

“It’s the direction that the industry has been planning to go,” she said.

Officials from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, which uses about two-thirds of all the wine grapes grown in Washington, have said the company must grow to handle increased wine consumption in the U.S.

Washington had 43,000 acres of wine grapes planted as of last year, according to the USDA. Ted Baseler, CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, has said he would like to see an additional 10,000 acres.

It’s important for the growth to happen in incremental steps so growers can supply what wineries need, Scharlau said.

The wine industry’s economic impact in the state was estimated at $8.6 billion in 2011, according to a 2012 report prepared for the Washington State Wine Commission. The industry and related businesses provided about 30,000 jobs statewide, according to the report.

Benton County wineries produce the most wine in the state, at about 11 million gallons, according to the report.

Norm McKibben, who manages Seven Hills and Les Collines vineyards near Walla Walla, said that this year was the sort of year that farmers hope for.

“The year couldn’t have been more perfect for us,” said McKibben, who finished harvest Nov. 5.

Warm weather will help improve the taste of this year’s vintage, he said. It’s the warmest year they have had since 2003.

The heat sped up the development of sugars, McKibben said. Then, a week of cool weather in Eastern Washington before harvest helped slow down development.

Kevin Corliss, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates’ vice president of vineyards, said the maturity of the grapes was excellent, with good ripeness across all of the varieties.

Corliss said winemaking staff are pleased with the quality and the quantity of key varieties such as cabernet, merlot, chardonnay and riesling.

“We expect to have a really beautiful vintage,” Corliss said.

Some of the white wines from this year’s crop will be out shortly after Jan. 1, Corliss said. It will take 18 to 24 months before the 2013 red wines will be available.

More in Herald Business Journal

Peoples, HomeStreet banks bump lowest salaries after tax cut

The banks with Snohomish County branches will raise minimum salaries for employees to $15 an hour.

Electroimpact cuts Mukilteo staff by 9 percent

“What we’re missing now is a monster anchor project,” the company’s VP said.

Exotic animals find compassionate care in Bothell (video)

At the Center for Bird and Exotic Animal Medicine, vets treat snakes, hedgehogs and even kangaroos.

How can you tell if you are getting good financial advice?

Assume that it’s still the same buyer-beware market that has always existed.

Amanda Strong (left) tries on an Angel of the Winds Arena hat as she and Courtney Brown hand out gift bags after the renaming ceremony Dec. 13 in Everett. The new name replaces the Xfinity name. (Andy Bronson / Her file)
Angel of the Winds to break ground on $60M casino expansion

“We think we’re on the cusp of becoming a major resort.”

In this Dec. 20, 2017, photo, a clerk reaches to a shelf to pick an item for a customer order at the Amazon Prime warehouse, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Amazon’s potential HQ2 sites leaves many cities disappointed

And yet, some municipal leaders are looking at the bright side of being rejected.

How do you retrieve an errant Boeing 737 from a muddy slope?

Turkish authorities used cranes to lift a plane that skidded off a runway.

Don’t take economic forecasts to the bank — or the casino

Air travel delays could spur a rebirth of passenger rail service.

Emirates orders 20 more Airbus A380 jumbos, saving program

The Dubai carrier also has options to buy 16 more. The program seems safe until 2029.

Most Read