Capital Press

SEATTLE -- The Washington wine industry, second only to California nationally, continues to grow at a faster rate than the national industry, the Washington Wine Commission says.

The total economic impact of the industry is $8.6 billion in the state and $14.9 billion in the nation, according to a study done for the commission.

"We couldn't be more pleased. This shows that Washington state wine is a vibrant and thriving contributor," Steve Warner, commission executive director, said in a news release.

The study, done by the Stonebridge Research Group of St. Helena, Calif., said the industry generates more than $237 million annually in tax revenues for the state and pays nearly $1.4 billion annually in taxes across the country.

The industry supports nearly 30,000 jobs in the state and more than 70,000 nationally with wages of $1.2 billion and $2.8 billion, respectively, the study said.

The study was heralded by the Washington Wine Institute, the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers and Ted Baseler, president and chief executive officer of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Woodinville, the state's largest producer.

"The future is indeed very bright for Washington as one of the marquee premium wine growing regions of the world," Baseler said.

The last time a similar study was done was in 2007 and then the value was $3 billion in-state and $4.7 billion nationally, said Ryan Pennington, commission spokesman.

Since 2005, the number of licensed wineries in Washington has more than doubled from 360 to well over 700, he said. Vineyard acreage has increased from 30,000 to 43,000.

However, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, tonnage and the average price per ton of Washington wine grapes has remained relatively flat since 2008.

But Pennington noted a 12 percent drop in 2011 tonnage was due to a 2010 freeze and that the true trend is upward not only in tonnage but in sales, acres planted and number of wineries.

"Certain categories had more growth several years ago compared with the last few years but that's not unique to Washington," he said. "The overall industry nationwide has seen slowed sales during the recession, but Washington has continued to outperform the category as a whole."

The Stonebridge study includes direct and indirect impacts, including taxes and wages paid by wineries, tourism and more suppliers than the prior study like corks, bottles and barrels, Pennington said.

"Think of it as what would be impact be if the industry went away," he said.

For the first time, the study estimates county level economic impact. King County (Seattle) is the largest at $3.3 billion. Benton County (Tri-Cities) is $927 million, Yakima County is $527 million and Walla Walla County is $502 million.


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