Washington wine industry in boom mode

The first winery license in the state of Washington was issued in 1962 when Columbia Winery was founded as Associated Vintners.

Now, just 45 years later, it has its 500th licensed operation, Sweet Valley Wines of Walla Walla. David McDaniels, one of three business partners, said, "We are honored to be a part of the wine industry in Walla Walla. So many others have led the way. What they have done will give us the opportunity to succeed. We look forward to continuing the legacy of producing world class wine for all to enjoy."

Washington, second only to California in U.S. winery rankings by state, had just 20 wineries in 1980 but that number has been on a steady increase since then, hitting the 155 mark by 2000, then adding 350 since then. There are nine American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) throughout the state.

Robin Pollard, executive director of the Washington Wine Commission, said in a statement, "As we pass this milestone, we are thrilled about the future for Washington wines. We aspire to become one of the top wine producing regions in the world, and we believe that our course is solidly set to achieve that goal."

The state's wine industry is not dependent on individuals to begin operations entirely on their own. There is a state-supported winery incubator building at the Walla Walla Regional Airport that is slated for expansion.

The state legislature has approved $500,000 for two more facilities, and the Port of Walla Walla is expected to add another $150,000. The Port's target is for five startup winery facilities designed for embryonic winemakers.

The buildings are designed for bonded wineries that produce about 1,000 cases annually as part of their business models. Tenants are accepted on a six-year residency plan, after which they must leave to make room for more startups.

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