Good Fruit Grower

February 2013

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"The state needs about 2,000 acres of new plantings each year just to keep up with annual growth." —Butch Milbrandt grapes in the Wahluke and Ancient Lakes appellations, according to the Milbrandt Vineyards Web site. "The state needs about 2,000 acres of new plantings each year just to keep up with annual growth," Butch said, adding that he and his brother planted about 250 acres in 2012. Additionally, Jerry partnered with Ryan Flanagan last year to plant another 180 acres of wine grapes along the Columbia River at the Spanish Castle Vineyard, located along Highway 28 east of Rock Island Dam. Butch says that others in his area have been expanding, too, including Dick Shaw, the Jones family of Quincy, and several Yakima Valley growers who have vineyards in the Mattawa area. With the recent addition of Zirkle Wine Company in Prosser to the state's list of custom-crush facilities, Butch believes there is an adequate number of processing facilities to handle increased growth. Moreover, many of the large wineries added storage space this year or have the ability, like Zirkle, to double capacity quickly if needed, he said. Ste. Michelle Ted Baseler, chief executive officer of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, says good signs are coming from the market. There is growing demand in the premium and ultra-premium wine tiers, the price segments where Washington wines do well. "We're not back to pre-2008 levels," said Baseler, "but sales are much better than 2009. Washington has a reputation for offering superior quality wine at various price points—in the $10 per bottle to $30 bottle range." He said that Washington continues to grow as a top wine region, and new vineyard plantings facilitate that growth. "Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has been working with growers to incentivize vineyard plantings, which translates into offering new contracts." Internally, Ste. Michelle has planted more acres at Cold Creek and Canoe Ridge, he said, though some of that is replanting of old blocks. "We're not the only ones expanding," Baseler said, noting that others are expanding operations in both wine facilities and vineyard plantings. "In total, between our own acreage expansion and new contracts offered to growers, it represents several thousand acres," he said. Baseler believes growth in the next few years will be tempered and planned, and not like the frenzy that occurred in the late 1990s. What's different this time around? For one, he says the strong competition for agricultural land will limit what is planted. Two, grape planting material is in short supply, and trellis materials are expensive, discouraging hasty, overnight planting decisions. Finally, he believes that growth will be carefully coordinated between winery and grower, with new acreage coming on at the same time winery storage capacity is increased, helping to keep processing capacity in balance with supply of fruit. "I certainly think that for growers with vineyards that are producing high-quality grapes, the future looks very promising," he said. "That's good for the economy and will add more jobs, taxes, and economic growth for the state." fordable Af st Alarms Fro • GOOD FRUIT GROWER FEBRUARY 1, 2013 19

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