On January 19, Steve Warner, president of the Washington State Wine Commission and Josh McDonald, executive director of the Washington Wine Commission, briefed the State Senate Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee in Olympia about the impact of the state's wine industry. At one point, the committee chairman, Senator Michael Baumgartner (R - Spokane) asked, "You're telling me that wine is gonna be bigger than wheat?" Steve Warner replied, "It's gonna be big bigger."
Warner and McDonald told the committee that Washington has approximately 900 wineries, with about four new ones each month. The state has about 350 grape growers with approximately 53,000 acres. In 1915, 222,000 tons of grapes were produced, with a revenue of $254.2 million. The 2016 wheat harvest from 2.2 million acres reaped $600 million in sales. The 2016 grape harvest has been estimated to be 20% higher than the previous year. It's not going to be very long before Washington Wine becomes "bigger than wheat."
There are quite a few good reasons why Washington Wine is becoming bigger than wheat:
High quality-price ratios - Washington wines offer higher quality for their prices than any other wine producing state. The ratings in the Review of Washington Wines and other publications are evidence of that.
Plenty of available acreage and water access - There are hundreds of thousands of acres of land that are suitable for grape growing and there is good access to water, unlike drought plagued California. No wonder out of state investors are buying vineyard land here.
Reasonable farming costs and profit margins - Well managed vineyards and wineries have good chances of success in this state.
Growing awareness of Washington Wines - National and international press has created more awareness of Washington State as a producer of quality wines.
Education for developing talent and research - Viticulture and enology programs such as those of the Walla Walla Community College and Washington State University are training students to be skilled workers in the wine industry. Research at the WSU Prosser Extension and other institutions helps maintain the industry's progress.