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A Brief Look Into The Washington Wine Industry

White grape vineyards in Italy. Italian winery.

Making wine may start out as a hobby for many in Washington, but the organized industry contributes significantly to the economy. In 2022 an estimated $9.51 billion was generated across all sectors, from nurseries and vineyards to tasting rooms and tourism. There are 836 wineries in the state, with more coming all the time; and over 60,000 acres of grapes planted.

Washington state is home to 20 distinct growing appellations, known as American Viticulture Areas or AVAs. These regions are defined by differences in weather, water, and soil, and the varieties of grapes grown in each location will vary according to what is best suited to the circumstance. The most recently incorporated AVAs are White Bluffs, Goose Gap, and The Burn of Columbia Valley, all of which were approved in 2021 and are located in southeastern Washington.

Most farmers will tell you they remember three years of their career: the worst year, the best year, and last year. For many vineyards in eastern Washington, 2022 holds distinction as the answer to all three. After a wet and cool start to the season, which in parts included an April blizzard event and record June rainfall, the summer’s heat was high but manageable.

Growing degree days, a measure of the accumulated heat units an area experiences, were in the typical range and there was no endless blanket of wildfire smoke casting fear into the hearts of winemakers and crop insurers everywhere. Late heat during harvest held steady and though picking started late there was no sudden frost or freeze to destroy all our hopes and dreams of what was shaping up to be a stunning vintage. After a few years in a row of light crop load, ’22 came in strong and full and will reward everyone’s patience by blowing us all away upon release.

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Brock Higgins

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Maureen O'Callaghan

Assistant Winemaker

Hi my name is Maureen!
I attended wine school at the Institute of Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College from 2014-16. Professionally I started out in the industry on the growing side, working as a harvest intern and then viticulturist on Red Mountain. I joined Merry Cellars as the assistant winemaker in 2021.

Maureen O 'Callaghan

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