Putting a finger on the number of wineries in the United States depends on what records you touch. But you can be sure the number has skyrocketed in the past decade.
The most recent figures from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms put the number of active licenses in 1999 for "winery premises," which include bonded warehouses, at 2,443. That's 50 percent more than the 1,610 licenses in 1990 and about 2-1/2 times more than the 920 in 1980.
But growth didn't stop with the turn of the millennium.
Wine trade groups testifying on distribution issues before a congressional subcommittee last October estimated the number of wineries at 2,500.
ATF granted appellation status to 149 wine-growing regions as of last month, up from 50 in 1990. Appellations, officially called American Viticulture Areas, are defined by geographical and climactic distinctions and commonly accepted place names, such as the Yakima Valley or Napa Valley.
An appellation allows wineries to describe the origins of their wines more accurately to consumers and helps buyers identify the wines they purchase. About 60 percent of all appellations are in California.
One of the most comprehensive lists of wineries on the Internet is www.allamericanwineries.com. The site lists 2,221 wineries nationwide, with contact numbers, addresses and links to Web sites. Bob Hodge, who maintains the site, said he lists only those he knows or has heard about from readers and winery owners who contact him.
For example, a link to Washington reports only 170 wineries in the state, but recent Liquor Control Board data puts the number at 240.
— Thomas P. Skeen