While California wine certainly still rules over U.S. wine production, it seems that Washington State has been steadily carving out a name for itself—especially in light of the ongoing drought in California. The New York Times reports that Washington State’s wine production has more than doubled in the past ten years, and it could likely continue to grow. In fact, the drought hurting California and the rest of the West Coast could actually be working to the advantage of grape growers in Washington.
The water complications in California are much more severe than in Washington. This doesn’t mean that Washington isn’t feeling the effects of the water shortage, only that the landscape of what crops are being grown there is changing dramatically (in favor of wine drinkers). Many farmers are replacing crops like apples with grapes, seeing that grapes require far less water to grow. In fact, wine grapes thrive in dry summer conditions when the plants are urged to send more of its sugars to into the grapes, rather than the leaves.
Markus Keller, professor of viticulture at Washington State, is not worried about grape crops surviving the summer: “Of all the crops, I’m worried less about the wine grapes than any other…Wine’s expansion will continue. If anything, it will accelerate.”
Some Washington wineries like Ste. Michelle Wine Estates have even reported that the demand for their product is so high they can’t keep up. In some cases they are bing forced to look elsewhere to buy more wine grapes, sometimes even California. [New York Times][Photo: Flickr/Jenny Downing]