Washington wine’s earliest days date back to 1825, when the first grape vines were planted. Pioneer William B. Bridgman planted grapevines in Yakima Valley in the early 1900s. In subsequent years, Dr. Walter Clore, recognized as the father of the Washington wine industry, researched what varieties would grow well in Washington. Today the industry is thriving with more than 1,000 wineries and 80 different varieties planted. Below, you’ll find a few glimpses into the history, and historic moments, of Washington Wine.


I. The Beginnings: 1825-1934

black and white image of dark buildings with white trim, white barn and agriculture buildings, and a railroad track and post fence in the foreground.
Photo of Chateau Ste. Michelle grounds in Woodinville, WA
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  • 1825

    Washington’s first grapes were planted at Fort Vancouver by the Hudson’s Bay Company using seeds brought from England.

  • 1854

    Hybrid varieties arrived in nurseries in the Puget Sound region.

  • 1859 – 1960

    Wine grapevines first planted in the Walla Walla Valley.

  • 1902

    William B. Bridgman arrives in Sunnyside and promotes irrigation. Large-scale irrigation, fueled by runoff from the melting snowcaps of the Cascade Mountains, unlocks the dormant potential of the land and its sunny, arid climate.

  • 1910

    The first annual Columbia River Valley Grape Carnival was held in Kennewick.

  • 1914

    William B. Bridgman plants varieties at Harrison Hill in Sunnyside, Washington.

  • 1917

    Bridgman first plants grapes on Snipes Mountain. Until, recently, 1917 plantings of Muscat of Alexandria vines were still in production.

  • 1920

    The arrival of Prohibition stalls wine grape production.

  • 1933

    Washington becomes the 24th state to repeal Prohibition.

  • 1934

    National Wine Company (NAWICO) and Pomerelle Wine Company are founded. Washington State Liquor Act passes, forming the Liquor Control Board.  

II. The Formative Years: 1935-1995

A man and a woman smile in a sagebrush field with rolling hills and blue sky behind. The woman holds a burlap sack over her shoulder and the man's arm is around her neck and holds a tall square measuring pole.
Kiona Vineyards & Winery
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  • 1935

    Washington Wine Producers Association is founded.

  • 1937

    42 wineries were located throughout the state, mostly dedicated to fruit and fortified wines.

  • 1937

    Dr. Walter J. Clore becomes assistant horticulturist at the Irrigation Branch Experiment Station (now known as the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center) in Prosser.

  • 1941

    Cabernet Sauvignon is first planted in Washington.

  • 1942

    24 wineries are located in Washington.

  • 1954

    American Wine Growers is founded in a merger of National Wine Company and Pomerelle Wine Company and market Grenache Rosé under the Granada brand name.

  • 1956

    Cabernet Sauvignon vines are planted at Otis Vineyard in Yakima Valley. They are currently the oldest Cabernet vines in the state and some of the oldest in the country.

  • 1960

    Dr. Walter Clore begins wine grape field research at Washington State University’s Irrigated Experiment Station.

  • 1961

    First Riesling planted in Washington.

  • 1962

    Associated Vintners is incorporated by a group of 10 friends, six of whom are University of Washington professors that began making non-commercial wine in 1958. The winery is subsequently rebranded Columbia Winery in 1983.

  • 1963

    Associated Vintners plants Harrison Hill Vineyard in Yakima Valley.

  • 1964

    First Chardonnay planted in Washington.

  • 1965

    First Merlot planted in Washington.

  • 1967

    American Wine Growers launches Ste. Michelle Vintners dedicated to varietal wines, producing a Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Semillon, and Grenache. Famed winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff is retained as a consultant.

  • 1969

    California Wine Bill passes, eliminating trade barriers and restrictions and allowing out-of-state wineries to sell in state.

  • 1972

    The earliest plantings go in at Sagemoor, Cold Creek, Celilo, and Mercer Ranch vineyards, with the latter subsequently  renamed Champoux Vineyard in 1996.

  • 1973

    The first vines are planted at Red Willow Vineyard in Yakima Valley.

  • 1974

    By this year, Dr. Walter Clore had had overseen the plantings of 312 grape varieties at the research station.

  • 1974

    Leonetti Cellar plants first Cabernet Sauvignon in Walla Walla Valley.

  • 1974

    Los Angeles Times holds blind tasting of 19 White Rieslings. Ste. Michelle’s 1972 Riesling ranks first, pushing the winery into the national spotlight.

  • 1975

    First vineyard planted on Red Mountain.

  • 1976

    Ste Michelle Vineyards opens in Woodinville and rebrands as Chateau Ste Michelle.

  • 1978

    Chateau Ste Michelle makes first vineyard designated Cabernet Sauvignon.

  • 1980

    Earliest plantings at Seven Hills Vineyard planted in Walla Walla Valley, 21 acres of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

  • 1981

    Washington has 19 wineries.

  • 1982

    German winery Franz Langguth opens in Mattawa, Washington, dedicating itself to Riesling. This marks the first foreign investment in Washington, though it only lasts until 1987.

  • 1983

    Yakima Valley is established as Washington’s first federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 1983

    Leonetti Cellar’s inaugural 1978 Cabernet Sauvignon is named best in the country by Wine State Wine & Spirits Buying Guide.

  • 1984

    Walla Walla Valley is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 1984

    Washington becomes the second largest producer of premium wines in the United States.

  • 1984

    Columbia Valley is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 1986

    First Syrah in the state is planted at Red Willow Vineyard in Yakima Valley.

  • 1987

    Washington State Wine Commission is formed as a unified marketing and trade association.

  • 1995

    Chateau Ste. Michelle and famed Italian winemaker Marchese Piero Antinori release the first vintage of Col Solare, marking a major international partnership.

  • 1995

    Puget Sound is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

III. Modern Day: 1997-2021

A man in a white shirt and ball cap with a shovel over his shoulder walks next to rows of green grape vines, in front of a modern angular building. The sky is bright with a few pine trees in the background.
COR Cellars, Columbia Gorge AVA
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  • 1997

    Cayuse Vineyards plants first modern day vineyard in what would become known as the Rocks District of Milton-Freewater in Walla Walla Valley.

  • 1998

    Taste Washington takes place in Seattle for the first time, later becoming the largest single-region food and wine festival in the country.

  • 1999

    Chateau Ste Michelle partners with Germany’s renowned Dr. Loosen winemaker, Ernst Loosen, to produce the first vintage of Eroica Riesling.

  • 2000

    The ‘Big Bang’ of the industry, as the number of producers and grape acreage increases dramatically.

  • 2001

    Washington bonds its 100th winery.

  • 2001

    Washington State Legislature passes a resolution to officially recognizing Walter Clore as the ‘Father of the Washington Wine Industry’.

  • 2001

    Red Mountain is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 2003

    Washington Wine Institute and educational partners celebrate state’s $2.3 million investment (per biennium) to create new 2-year and 4-year degree programs supporting Washington’s growing wine industry.

  • 2004

    Columbia Gorge is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 2005

    A Washington wine receives its first 100-point score, the 2002 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate.

  • 2005

    Horse Heaven Hills is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 2006

    Cabernet Sauvignon production exceeds Merlot production for the first time.

  • 2006

    Rattlesnake Hills is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 2006

    Wahluke Slope is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 2009

    Columbia Crest 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is named the number one wine in the world by Wine Spectator. Charles Smith Royal City Syrah receives a 100-point score from Wine Enthusiast, a first for the variety in Washington.

  • 2009

    Lake Chelan is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 2009

    Snipes Mountain is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 2010

    Washington bonds its 441st winery.

  • 2011

    The industry votes to increase their annual assessments to fund a world-class Wine Science Center at Washington State University.

  • 2012

    Ancient Lakes is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 2012

    Naches Heights is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 2013

    Cabernet Sauvignon becomes Washington’s most produced grape variety, surpassing Riesling and Chardonnay.

  • 2015

    Ste Michelle Wine Science Center opens at WSU in Richland, Washington.

  • 2016

    Lewis-Clark Valley is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 2019

    Bodegas Valdemar, a prominent Spanish producer, opens Valdemar Estates in Walla Walla Valley, marking a major foreign investment in Washington.

  • 2019

    Washington bonds its 1000th winery.

  • 2020

    Royal Slope is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 2020

    Candy Mountain is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 2021

    The Burn of Columbia Valley is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 2021

    White Bluffs is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).

  • 2021

    Goose Gap is established as a federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA).