While Washington State’s first wine grapes were planted in 1825, the first commercial plantings did not begin until the 1960’s and major production not until the 1970s. Forty years later, Washington is the second largest premium wine producer in the United States behind California.
Wine growing regions around Washington State
Washington State has 14 wine growing areas or American Viticultural Areas (AVA), as defined by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Washington State AVAs are:
Puget Sound AVA is the only AVA in western Washington (west of the Cascade Mountains). Only 1% of the state’s wine grapes are grown here, as the marine climate is not well-suited to growing grapes. However, many of the wineries in western Washington source their grapes in the Columbia Valley. Likewise, many of the vintners in eastern Washington have tasting rooms in the Puget Sound region.
Columbia Valley AVA is the state’s largest AVA and encompasses 10 smaller AVAs, listed below. The AVAs in eastern Washington State grow 99% of Washington’s wine grapes—and more than any other state except California. The macro appellation of the Columbia Valley encompasses the following smaller AVAs listed below.
- Ancient Lakes
- Horse Heaven Hills
- Lake Chelan
- Naches Heights
- Rattlesnake Hills
- Red Mountain
- Snipes Mountain
- Wahluke Slope
- Walla Walla Valley
- Yakima Valley
Columbia Gorge AVA begins at the western edge of the Columbia Valley AVA and straddles both sides of the Columbia River in Washington and Oregon.
Lewis-Clark Valley AVA begins at the eastern edge of the Columbia Valley AVA and straddles across the border into Idaho.
For further exploration of Washington State wine growing regions, use the mobile app Map My WA Wine, that was designed to be the guide to your next glass of Washington Wine.
Several other unofficial AVAs are developing, including Southwest Washington (from Olympic to Vancouver), North Central Washington (north of Lake Chelan to the Canadian border), and around the city of Spokane in the far eastern part of Washington State.
Touring the wine regions of Central and Eastern Washington
Virtually all Washington State wines are produced from grapes grown in the Columbia Valley region in central and eastern Washington where the climate and soil provide ideal growing conditions. You can taste wines at hundreds of wineries dotted along the rolling hills of the wine growing country.
Listed below are some of our favorites wine tasting areas, in order by distance from Seattle. Or, scroll down for our Wine Tasting Events calendar.
Popular wine touring locations in Central and Eastern Washington
Leavenworth (120 mi. E of Seattle) features more than 20 wineries at tasting rooms around Front Street, featuring wines from Leavenworth as well as around Washington State.
Yakima Valley (150-235 mi. SE of Seattle) has over 120 wineries and several AVAs, including Horse Heaven Hills, Rattlesnake Hills, Red mountain, strewn along a drive from the town of Naches to Benton City (map).
Walla Walla Valley (245-275 mi. SE of Seattle) has over 140 wineries along U.S. highway 12 in and around the downtown area.
Get free shipping on Alaska Airlines Taste and Tote program if you are a Mileage Plan member. The program allows one case of wine to travel free when travelling on Alaska Airlines out of the Walla Walla, Tri-Cities/Pasco, or Yakima Airports.
More resources for exploring Washington State Wine
Wines Northwest is a comprehensive guide to Pacific Northwest Wines, including Washington State, as well as Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia.
DiscoverWashingtonWine.com provides comprehensive information about Washington State wine regions.
Wine Country Washington provides information about the wine growing region of Eastern Washington from Yakima to Walla, including tours, maps, events, lodging, and restaurants.
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Wine tasting events
The following wine tasting events occur throughout Washington State. We focus on wine tasting events that are free or have a ticket price of $15 or less. For other events, visit the resources list above for exploring Washington State wine.
(If no events are listed below, there are no upcoming wine tasting events in our calendar. We usually update the list on a rolling basis throughout the year, and review the regularly occurring events once or twice a year.)