If all of those who signed the petition follow through starting today, there will soon be more than 4,000 vehicles wearing the Washington Wine Country license plate.
The Washington State Wine Commission and the Washington Wine Institute announced today that the Washington State Department of Licensing is now accepting orders of the Washington Wine Specialty License Plate through its offices around the state and its website.
Editor’s note: Those who want to personalize their WA Wine Country license plate must do so online because there is a search-and-approval process. Also, payment of personalized license plates must be by check or money order only, according to a customer service agent in Richland. Credit/debit cards are NOT accepted forms of payment for personalized plates.
On the DOL site, it is listed as the “Washington Wine Commission plate,” but it’s been a pet project of Rep. Kelly Chambers, the state Legislator (R-Puyallup) who sponsored House Bill 1530 that was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in March.
“It is thrilling for me to see something I started from scratch turn into a product thousands of Washingtonians will enjoy,” Chambers wrote in a news release. “This plate elevates Washington’s world-class wine industry to a new level where Washington Wine enthusiasts can now show their pride in a more visual way.”
Chambers was re-elected in November with nearly 56% of the vote.
Puyallup Republican leads license plate effort
Last winter, more than 4,000 Washingtonians signed a petition in support. The push was orchestrated by the wine commission, promoted by a number of wineries and supported in Olympia through the lobbying efforts of the Washington Wine Institute.
As far as what’s on the plate, Heather Bradshaw, communications director for the wine commission, noted it’s a collaboration of Chapter & Verse — a design company with offices in Seattle and Spokane — Portland photojournalist Andréa Johnson and the DOL.
Washington wine wonks might wonder why the top of the license plate includes the Oregon side of the Columbia River.
“We looked at so many options and were a bit limited due to DOL requirements,” Bradshaw told Great Northwest Wine via email. “The committees really thought it was important to show the Columbia River in the image as a defining characteristic for our wine country. It’s a beautiful shot of the Horse Heaven Hills!”
A leading figure in the establishment of Wallula Gap Vineyard — also known as The Benches — was the late Allen Shoup, whose leadership sparked the rise of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. Next, he created acclaimed Long Shadows Vintners in Walla Walla, and Wallula Gap Vineyards was an estate planting for Shoup and a group of investors after purchasing it from the Den Hoed family in 2008. Acquisitions advisory firm International Wine Associates orchestrated the 2020 sale of Wallula Gap Vineyards from Precept Wine to Prudential Financial, Inc. and its PGIM Real Estate division.
Sales of the license plate will help seed the new State of Washington Tourism, the state’s official destination marketing organization. The SWT is a membership-based nonprofit organization established after the 2011 closure of the Washington State Tourism Office. The wine commission has a seat on the SWT board.
Josh McDonald, executive director of the Washington Wine Institute, said, “We are honored to have helped pass this legislation and excited to see thousands of Washington wine supporters showing their love of our industry through this license plate. And, revenue goes directly to tourism, which is a critical investment towards our industry’s future success.”
Production of the #WaWine license plates will begin soon, according to Thomas Charlson, a communications consultant for the Washington State Department of Licensing.
“The Washington Wine license plate recently passed testing and we’ve submitted our order to the Washington Department of Corrections for production,” Charlson told Great Northwest Wine via email. “We are accepting applications now, but do not have a physical inventory to send out yet. We don’t have an ETA on when we’ll start receiving and sending out plates to customers.”
Coincidentally, the state’s most prestigious wine region — Walla Walla — is also where most of the state’s license plates are produced. According to a 2021 Seattle Times story, the Washington State Penitentiary began making license plates in 1923. The state’s other license plate factory is at the Monroe Correctional Complex.