Washington State has reached the 500-winery mark, consolidating its position as America’s No. 2 wine state.

The 500th licensed producer is Sweet Valley Wines in Walla Walla, in the immense Columbia Valley, east of the Cascade Mountains.

The landmark statistic was announced yesterday in Seattle by the Washington Wine Commission, the state-wide trade association.

At 500, Washington lags distantly behind California, with 2,275 bonded wineries. Oregon ranks third in the category of major wine states with more than 300, and New York is fourth with more than 210.

Washington’s modern wine industry dates to 1962, with the beginning of relatively large-scale plantings of vinifera grapes.

The industry ‘has experienced remarkable growth,’ the commission said. ‘The industry entered the 1980’s with fewer than 20 wineries. By 1990, the number grew to 64, and by 2000 to 155.’

The state has nine American Viticultural Areas (federal appellations). The commission said there are 350 wine-grape growers and 31,000 acres under vines.

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York