WOODINVILLE -– Washington winemakers believe the 2012 vintage could be one of their best, thanks to this year's long growing season filled with plenty of hot weather in the daytime and cool nights.
The weather has helped produce what's expected to be a record-setting grape crop -- 200,000 tons above earlier forecasts.
"This is the type of year that can really make a big difference. A pinnacle year for Washington," said Ted Baseler, CEO of Chateau Ste.
Michelle, the state’s largest winery, which will handle over half the crop.
There are nearly 750 wineries in Washington state, a number that continues to grow. A new five-year plan from the The Washington Wine Commission envisions boosting vineyard acreage by a third, from the current 43,000 in wine production to more than 62,000 by 2017.
Baseler said he believes the industry will top 200,000 acres in 20 years, making it roughly half the size as the California industry is now.
“There’s high potential in the next 20 years. If we continue to see growth in the industry and focus and world demand on Washington," he said.
A report published in April by the Washington State Wine Commission estimated the state's wine industry was responsible for
$8.6-billion in direct and indirect economic activity and employed nearly 30,000 people.
Washington wines are currently exported to 100 countries and are sold all over the United States. And per capita wine consumption in the U.S. is only about a third of the amount in Europe. That leaves a lot of room for growth in the American market, and awards are bringing more notice to Washington wine.