Local wine industry still booming amid economic slowdown

Local wine industry still booming amid economic slowdown
SEATTLE -- It was the talk of a recent wine tasting at the Northwest Wine Academy.

"It is a bright spot and we do see people coming back (to school) or changing their careers," says head winemaker and professor Peter Bos.

With so many industries experiencing a downturn, the wine industry in the Pacific Northwest continues growing.

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Bos says that means more people are hoping to get into the industry.

"Classes are full and I've already started putting people on a waiting list for 2010," he said.

Over at the Washington Wine Commission, Ryan Pennington says, "Even with a pretty dismal fourth quarter last year, sales overall were up 12 percent."

And Pennington says the trend continues this year.

The recession does have people shying away from many high priced bottles, but Pennington says those consumers are still buying wine.

"People who used to buy a $60 bottle of wine are now buying two $30 bottles," says Pennington.

That could be why most of this state's 600 wineries are still seeing sales growth. With a temperate climate and a similar growing season to historic regions of France, this region's wines are now known worldwide as high quality at value price.

"Now is the time to be aggressive in marketing Washington wine to reach consumers who are looking for more wine at a reasonable price," says Pennington.

Peter Bos admits he's not very good at predicting the industry's future, but he does tell his students they need to be ready for anything.

"The wine industry is so young, that you almost have to make up your own place," he said.

Advice, it seems, most Northwest winemakers are taking to heart, even in these tough economic times.

For more information on the Northwest Wine Academy visit their website: http://www.southseattle.edu/programs/proftech/wine.htm