WASHINGTON - Watch out Napa Valley. While the number of grape-bearing acres in Washington state has grown steadily during the past several years, California's has actually fallen, according to a wine industry report released Wednesday.
Washington Wine Commission officials say they aren't surprised, adding that the state is the fastest growing wine region in the nation. But even so, California remains by far and away the largest grape producer.
The wine, grape and grape products industry pumps $162 billion into the U.S. economy annually and employs more than 1.1 million workers, according to the study.
Industry officials and members of the congressional wine caucus hope the report will help bolster their drive for a larger slice of federal farm spending as Congress considers a new farm bill this year. They also are calling for immigration reform, specifically an expanded agricultural guest-worker program and increased funding to preserve farmland.
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The report found that as the number of grape-bearing acres in California fell from 820,000 acres to 800,000 acres between 2002 and 2005, the number of acres in Washington state grew from 52,000 to 54,000. Oregon's grew from 9,400 acres to 11,800 acres. Most other states, including New York, held steady.
"I tell people the 21st century belongs to Washington state wines," boasted Deborah Daoust, a spokeswoman for the Washington Wine Commission.
In addition to the increased number of acres, Daoust said the number of wineries in the state has grown from 155 in 2000 to more than 470 now. A new winery opens every 15 days in Washington state, she said.
"The growth has been phenomenal," Daoust said.
California still leads the nation with 2,275 bonded wineries.
Daoust said the number of acres in grape production in California might have slipped because land prices in the Napa Valley and the Sonoma area have skyrocketed and as a result of the dot-com bust.
"The whole wine cult thing in the Napa Valley was driven by dot-commers," she said.
The same firm that did the national study released Wednesday, MKF Research based in the Napa Valley, soon will begin an updated study of the Washington state wine industry, said Daoust. Her latest figures showed the wine industry pours about $3 billion in the state's economy annually and employs about 14,000 people. The estimated retail value of Washington state wine in 2004 was $685 million.
The national study included all segments of the industry: wine, wine grape, raisin, grape juice, table grapes and grape products.
About 90 percent of the nation's wine is produced in California, though there are now wineries in all 50 states. Washington state produces about 4 percent of the U.S. output, the report said. Grape juice production is concentrated in Washington, Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan.
The national study also found:
• The industry pays about $17.1 billion in taxes annually, including $9.1 billion in federal taxes and $8 billion in state and local taxes.
• More than 27 million people visit wineries annually, producing about $3 billion in wine-related tourism expenditures.
• Grapes are the highest value U.S. fruit crop, ahead of apples, citrus and strawberries. The wine crop, however, trails corn, soybeans, hay, wheat and cotton.
South sound vintners
Walter Dacon Wines
Address: 50 S.E. Skookum Inlet Road, Shelton
Annual production: 1,500 cases
Varietals: Sangiovese, Syrah, Viognier and Roussane
Web site: walterdaconwines.com
Widgeon Hill Winery
Address: 121 Widgeon Hill Road, Chehalis
Annual production: 500 cases
Varietals: Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tanupa Red
Web site: widgeonhill.com
Address: 13443 118th Ave.
Annual production: 4,000 cases
Varietals: Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, Picpou, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise, Cinsault
Web site: mccreacellars.com
Address: 6315 Boston Harbor Road, Olympia
Annual production: 3,000 cases
Varietals: Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
Web site: andrakecellars.com
Gibbons Lane Winery (Donedei label)
Annual production: fewer than 1,000 cases
Varietals: Merlot, Cabernet
Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Syrah
Web site: marchettiwines.com
Address: 7408 Manzanita, Olympia
Annual production: 100 cases
Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah
Address: 23501 N. U.S. Highway 101, Hoodsport, Mason County
Annual production: 12,000 cases
Varietals: Merlot, Chardonnay, Island Belle Merlot, Lemberger-Cabernet, Raspberry, Syrah, Madeleine Angevine, Rhubarb
Phone: 360-877-9894, 800-580-9894
Web site: hoodsport.com