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After emerging in the mid-1970s as a promising young wine region, Washington State has rocketed to the top, becoming the second-largest wine producing region in the United States, after California. A $2.4 billion enterprise, Washington's wine industry boasts more than 240 wineries, 300 wine grape growers and 29,000 vineyard acres. Production has more than doubled over the past decade, and Washington wines are now sold in all 50 states and in more than 40 countries.

The Cascade Mountains divide Washington into two distinct regions. While the western region receives about 50 inches of rainfall per annum, the Eastern region is dry and desert-like, receiving only 8 inches of rain annually. The desert climate engenders warm days and cool nights, a temperature disparity which leads to grapes and wines with fully developed fruit flavors and lively acidity, attributes enhanced by the region's dry, volcanic soils, which are ideal for cultivating high-quality grapes. Virtually all of the state's vineyards are east of the Cascades, in five districts: Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Valley, Puget Sound and Red Mountain.

Washington produces more than 15 wine grapes varieties and is especially celebrated for its red wines, particularly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah.

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