Spokane winery owners reflect on rapidly growing industry during Washington Wine Month

Washington state has been producing wine for close to 200 years, but only recently has the industry seen it’s most rapid growth. In the last decade, 40% of the 50,000 acres of grapes were planted and throughout the state there are close to 1,000 wineries.

Spokane is no stranger to the rapid growth of the 4.8 billion dollar industry, and while businesses are flourishing, it doesn’t mean there isn’t competition – with other wineries, distilleries and breweries constantly popping up.

Mike Conway, winemaker and owner of Spokane Valley’s Latah Creek Winery shared, “the piece of the pie has certainly gotten smaller!”

Conway opened Latah Creek Winery close to 40 years ago and has had a front seat to watch the industry expand adding, “Spokane has as many wineries in the city as we had in the entire state back in 1980.”

He credits their loyal fan base with their success but to keep things fresh new, he brought in his daughter, Natalie Barnes.

“She has ideas which keep it geared toward that generation,” he explained.

Natalie’s also helped Latah Creek Winery stay true to their mission of making affordable wines, but now also offering premium options for those seeking something different.

“You need to attract some of those other people that want to pay premium price for premium wines,” she explained.

So where is the industry headed? We went to Spokane’s newest winery, Winescape, tucked away on the South Hill to find out.

Winescape’s Patricia Butterfield’s said “I see the Spokane wine community going where the community wants to take it.”

She and her husband Phillip, who own Winescape together, see that as unique experiences at each winery.

He added, “the way that people experience drinking wine and where they go to have that experience is really what they are going to remember. We are close to town but its very rural here in feeling.”

For the folks at Latah Creek, they see a tourist destination and predict we will see more Washington Wines available all over the world.

Conway said, “we have more plantable acres of grapes here in Washington than they do in California so as far as that is concerned we have unlimited capabilities. It just depends on the number of people here.