OLYMPIA, Wash. — The 2022 vintage for the Washington state wine industry is on track to yield 28 percent more than last year’s “heat dome” vintage, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This year, the projection by the USDA indicates production is headed toward 230,000 tons. If that holds, the 2022 crush will rank No. 2 in state history yet far below the record 270,000 tons pulled during the 2016 vintage.
Last year, Washington winemakers crushed 179,600 tons of grapes, which signaled a 1% increase over the pandemic and smoke-plagued 2020 harvest. When combined with the softening market for wine in the U.S. and around the world, the wine grape harvest from the 2020 and 2021 vintages ranked as the lightest in Washington state since the 142,000 tons from the cool 2011 growing season.
Despite the optimistic estimates for harvest, Chris Bitter of VintageEconomics.com recently shared his analysis that indicates Washington state vintners have reported four consecutive quarters of reduced wine shipments.
The 230,000 tons of 2022 would place it just ahead of both the 2017 vintage and 2014 vintage in the Evergreen State when wine grape production for each totaled 227,000 tons.
The Northwest regional field office for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service published its latest forecast Friday as part of its “Agriculture Counts” campaign.
At this point, the 2022 growing season also has been favorable for juice grapes in Washington state. If the projection holds, there will be 155,000 tons harvested, representing a 35 percent increase for the state’s growers and processors of Concord and Niagara grape varieties. Last year, there were just 103,000 tons of juice grapes harvested. In 2019, Washington led the U.S. with 176,000 tons of juice grapes.
According to the USDA, Washington is the second-largest grape producer in the nation at 6 percent of national production. The USDA does not post a forecast for the Oregon or Idaho wine industries.
Projections are mixed for other fruit growers in Washington state, particularly orchard fruit with apple harvest likely down 4 percent from 2021 and peaches off 2 percent. Washington ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for apples with 64 percent of the market.
Wine grape harvest in California’s Napa Valley began July 29 with Sauvignon Blanc, and the state is not expected to reach 4 million tons because of drought conditions and the unseasonable spring freeze damage that many fruit growers suffered along the West Coast.
Jeff Bitter, president the Allied Grape Growers, told American Vineyard Magazine during a June 29 interview that some California vineyards suffered a complete loss because of freeze events that are expected to reduce that state’s crop by 100,000 tons. He indicated, however, that the 2022 harvest for California could exceed both the 3.6 million tons of 2021 and the fire-plagued 2020 harvest of 3.4 million.