Food & Beverage
Washington’s prime location in the northwest corner of the country allows for some of the most fertile soils for growing. From corn and peppermint to cherries and apples, the State of Washington produces more than 300 commercial crops and livestock and marine products, making it one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. In the Yakima Valley alone, there are over 40 commercial crops produced almost year-round, such as asparagus in the spring, blueberries in the summer and potatoes in the fall. Many farmers offer U-pick experiences, specialty foods and festivals so visitors can enjoy fresh, in-season harvests.
Local chefs source their ingredients from Washington farmers, ranchers and fisheries, building menus that emphasize fresh, seasonal flavors. Union Gap’s own Los Hernandez Tamales won the James Beard America’s Classics award in 2018, and many other restaurants and/or chefs have been nominated for James Beard Awards throughout the years, including Joule’s Rachel Yang for Outstanding Chef and Matia Kitchen & Bar for Best New Restaurant. Washington is a top destination for foodies, whether you’re looking for innovative multi-course tasting menus or cozy cafes.
For those who want to taste a little bit of everything, there are plenty of events throughout the year to enjoy the freshest food the Pacific Northwest has to offer. The Taste Northwest in early July celebrates artisans from throughout the South Sound with over 60 food vendors, live entertainment and competitions. On the Olympic Peninsula, travelers can follow the Olympic Culinary Loop and discover artisan cider makers, award-winning dairy products, distilled spirits and some of the world’s best seafood. Visitors can walk the Shellfish Trail from the Columbia River to the Canadian border to explore and gather Washington’s famous oysters, clams, mussels and more.
With some of the most ideal growing conditions in the United States, Washington takes pride in producing and cultivating the best of the best, and this includes wine, beer, cider and spirits. Each winery, brewery, cidery and distillery is unique, and many are family owned, so visitors can experience signature creations that have been perfected for decades.
Washington is one of the largest producers of premium wines in the country, second only to California. The state has 20 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) with 1,000+ licensed wineries; each year, they produce 17 million cases of wine in 80 varieties, from chardonnay and pinot grigio to cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
Washington’s Wine Country is expansive, covering multiple AVAs and destinations including the Yakima Valley, Spokane, Columbia Gorge and Walla Walla. The Lake Chelan AVA is situated in central Washington where one can enjoy varieties of reds and whites from Riesling to merlot. The Puget Sound AVA is the state’s only wine-growing region west of the Cascades which produces white and red varietals. To the southeast, Walla Walla invites visitors to taste the best bold and earthy reds. The fertile Yakima Valley has some of the most diverse soils and elevations in the state, resulting in a striking range of grapes.
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Washington also produces the majority of all the hops grown in the United States: Much of the hops grown in Washington comes from the Yakima Valley, which routinely produces more than 70% of the total domestic annual yield. Like wine AVAs, Yakima is divided into three distinct growing regions, each with unique hop yields that lead to different varieties of beer.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy local craft beer in Washington. Every October, Yakima hosts the Fresh Hop Ale Festival, where dozens of brewers from around the U.S. compete with products created specifically for the festival using only freshly harvested hops. In the northwest corner of the state, Bellingham is home to many popular craft breweries, including some of the most decorated and highly respected in the nation. Home to the oldest malt supplier in the western United States, Vancouver hosts more than two dozen breweries and several local taprooms. Packed with breweries within walking distance of one another, Seattle offers crown favorites and local brews.
The rapidly growing cider industry has also taken Washington by storm, and the state is home to many family owned cideries. These orchards have been passed down from generation to generation, with each producing unique varieties of heirloom and cider apples. Craft cider makers create distinct flavors combining their homegrown apples with other ingredients like hops and fruit, which are often cultivated on the same farm. Locally crafted hard cider is readily available in restaurants, bars and grocery stores. For 10 days in September, you can also support local businesses and taste products from cideries from all over the state during Washington Cider Week.
In addition to wine, beer, and cider, Washington is home to innovative distilleries. At Sandstone Distillery in Olympia, guests can try Stone Carver Vodka or Sandstone Single Malt Whisky, two award-winning, handcrafted spirits. Expertly created using Washington-grown grains, these complex and refined products perfectly combine the flavors of the Pacific Northwest. Near Seattle, Woodinville Whiskey Co. makes seven barrels of whiskey a day using purified Cascade Mountain water and the finest corn and rye sourced from a farm in Quincy. It has won countless awards over the years, from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition Consumer Choice Award to Double Platinum medals in the American Spirits Council of Tasters ASCOT Awards.
Althea Conyers Achem / Taylor Zetlin / Molly Gilbride
Public Relations, GreenRubino for State of Washington Tourism