Much has been made about America's massive brewery growth, jumping from about 1,600 in 2009 to likely over 8,000 today. But wineries in the U.S. have also seen impressive (if not as exponential) growth—from 6,357 wineries in 2009 to over 10,000 now. Though nearly half of those wineries—4,510 to be exact, according to Wine Vines Analytics—are in California, America's second-largest wine-producing state might be closer with its winery tally than you think. This week, Washington State announced it has crossed the 1,000 winery threshold.
As of October, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) says it has 1,010 active winery licenses, an impressive turn from even just two decades ago. The trade group Washington State Wine explains that in the early ‘80s, Washington had just 20 wineries, and even by the year 2000, that number had only grown to 74 wineries. "To think about where we started and where we are today is absolutely thrilling," Steve Warner, president of Washington State Wine, said in the announcement. "From humble beginnings, the Washington wine industry now contributes more than $7 billion to the state's economy and generates roughly $2.4 billion in revenue."
Despite its wineries, Washington still lags significantly behind California in actual wine production. According to Wines Vines, The Golden State makes up 86 percent of U.S. production whereas second-place Washington only accounts for 5 percent. But Warner believes crossing the thousand mark is only just the beginning. "We still have so much room to grow, both on the winery and vineyard side," he added. "The fact is, Washington is a great place to open a winery… The climate is perfect for growing grapes, plus we are a young industry full of optimism and drive. Our winemakers and farmers love to experiment, push boundaries, work together and want to see each other succeed. It's an exciting place to be."
Food & Wine Executive Wine Editor Ray Isle agrees with that notion. "There's a joke in Walla Walla about the place being an island of vineyards in a sea of wheat," Isle said. "News like this makes you start to wonder how long that's still going to be true—the potential for wine in Washington is ridiculously vast, and I'd guess that even a thousand wineries are only beginning to tap it."
Meanwhile, Washington may not be the only state with more wineries than you realize. Wines Vines—which says its data was updated in July—lists at least 13 states with over 100 wineries. (For the record, they only have Washington listed at 780 wineries; these numbers vary based on how they've been tallied.) Their numbers: Oregon has 791 wineries, New York has 405, Texas has 381, Pennsylvania has 305, Virginia has 291, Ohio has 265, Michigan has 204, North Carolina has 170, Missouri has 155, Colorado has 144, and Illinois has 119. Plus, incredibly, the remaining 37 states still have 1,665 wineries between them—or 16 percent of all U.S. wineries. The moral: You're almost certainly not doing as much wine tasting as you could when you travel around the United States.
Check out our picks for 26 wineries you should visit in Washington and Oregon.