REGION: United States

American wine has been produced for nearly 300 years, and there are now nearly 3,000 commercial vineyards in the United States with at least one winery in each of the 50 States. The United States is the fourth largest wine producing country in the world after France, Italy, and Spain. With more than 1,100,000 acres under “vine”, the United States is the fifth most planted country in the world after France, Italy, Spain and Turkey.

California is the largest wine growing region in the country, followed by Washington State, Oregon and New York. Wineries in the Rocky Mountain Region are most notable in Idaho and Colorado. The southwestern United States produces wines in Texas and New Mexico. Midwest producers are located in Missouri, Illinois and Minnesota. In the Great Lakes region, Michigan, northern New York and Ohio are home to a number of winemakers. On the east coast, vintners in New Jersey, New York State, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Virginia, and North Carolina seek to develop wines comparable to those of their west coast competitors.
Wine production in the United States is dominated by wineries in the fruitful regions of California, where wines have been designed by America’s palates and are reflective of big fruit, big alcohol and big taste. With 480,000 vineyard acres and 1200+ wineries producing 560 million gallons of wine annually, California is only exceeded by the national outputs of Italy, France, and Spain. The climate range in California varies from region to region which allows for superb production of many different types of perfectly grown grapes, resulting in many different varietals.
Due to different growing conditions within the state, the California wine producing areas are separated into five major regions: North Coast, Sierra Foothills, Central Coast, Central Valley, and Southern California. Each of these regions can be divided into sub-regions called appellations (which are often counties) which are easily recognizable by name such as Napa and Sonoma. When a wine label contains a specific appellation, it means that at least 75 percent of the grapes were grown within that specific region. Wine labels can also contain two or three appellations to classify the different grapes in a wine if the percentages are specifically noted.
The largest region, the North Coast, is comprised of Mendocino and Lake Counties, as well as well-known Sonoma and Napa Valleys. Wineries in Mendocino County are located in Redwood Valley, Hopland and Anderson Valley.Lake County surrounds Clear Lake, the largest natural Lake in California, and its vineyards are located throughout its agriculturally rich valley at near 1400 feet elevation, to the rocky red volcanic soil around Mt. Konocti, at over 2000 feet elevation. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are just some of the premium varietals planted in Lake County soils.
Sonoma County is located on the coast of California south of Mendocino and north of San Francisco. Starting from the southeast, the Sonoma Valley begins in the Carneros through Sonoma, Glen Ellen and Kenwood. Heading north from Santa Rosa is Chalk Hill and then The Russian River Valley, Green Valley. Continuing north are Healdsburg, Dry Creek Valley, Knights Valley and the Alexander Valley. This area has numerous tasting rooms and wineries and is less crowded than Napa Valley.
The Napa Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) is located northeast of San Francisco, beginning on the south end at San Pablo Bay, which is connected to and just north of San Francisco Bay. The Napa Valley ranges in width from about 1 to 4 miles and extends north and slightly west for just over 30 miles to Mount St. Helena. From south to north, it encompasses the towns of Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga.
The Central Coast’s wine business is experiencing tremendous change. In Santa Barbara County, planted acreage is growing, while up in Paso Robles, a number of new wineries have opened and several more are in the application process. U.S. wine appellations in this region include: Central Coast, Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande Valley, Paso Robles, York Mountain, Santa Maria Valley and Santa Ynez Valley.
The Central Valley is located between the Sierra Nevada and the Coast Ranges. The Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers run though and make for abundant farmland. Lodi produces well-made Zinfandels, while Clarksburg is known for its Chenin Blanc. Wineries are also scattered about the state in smaller, less known districts such as the Sierra Foothills, the Sacramento area, and in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas.
Northwest Region
Oregon has established an international reputation for its production of wine. Oregon has several different growing regions which are well-suited to the cultivation of grapes; additional regions straddle the border between Oregon and the states of Washington and Idaho. Wine making dates back to pioneer times in the 1840s, with commercial production beginning in the 1960s.
American Viticultural Areas entirely within the state include the Willamette Valley, Southern Oregon, Umpqua Valley, and Rogue Valley AVAs. Parts of the Columbia Gorge, Walla Walla Valley, and Snake River Valley AVAs lie within Oregon. Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are the top two grapes grown, and wineries produced over 1.5 million cases combined in 2005.
Tourism has grown around the wine tasting experience and 303 wineries permeate the state. Much of the tourism focuses on the wineries and tasting rooms in and around the Yamhill Valley, southwest of Portland.
Washington state ranks second, behind California, in wine production.By 2006, the state had over 31,000 acres of vineyards and exports going to over 40 countries around the world from its 600 wineries. Most of the wine grape production takes place in the desert-like eastern half of the state. The rain shadow of the Cascade Range leaves the Columbia River Basin with around 8 inches of annual rain fall, making irrigation and water rights greatly significant to the Washington wine industry. Longer hours of sunlight (as compared to California) and consistent temperatures affect the state’s viticulture during the growing season.
The early history of the Washington wine industry can be traced to the introduction of Cinsault grapes by Italian immigrants to the Walla Walla region. Since the 1950’s, the wine world discovered a new aspect of Washington wines with each passing decade – starting with Rieslings and Chardonnays in the 1970s, the Merlot craze of the 1980s and the emergence of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah in the 1990s. Washington has eleven federally-defined American Viticultural Areas mostly located in Eastern Washington. The largest AVA is the Columbia Valley AVA, which extends into a small portion of northern Oregon and also encompasses six of the other Washington areas. These AVAs include: the Walla Walla Valley, the Horse Heaven Hills, the Wahluke Slope, Lake Chelan and the Yakima Valley, which in turn also encompasses the Rattlesnake Hills, Snipes Mountain and the Red Mountain. The Columbia Gorge AVA is west of the Columbia Valley AVA. Washington’s only AVA located west of the Cascades is the Puget Sound AVA. The Ancient Lakes wine-growing region is currently seeking federal AVA status.
New York
New York is at the forefront of a revitalization producing a wide range of quality wines, many of which are recognized by wine connoisseurs worldwide. Wine Spectator magazine recently described New York State as America’s next great wine region, a testament to the quality and the diversity of the wines currently produced.
New York has a long and rich history of viticulture and wine production. Dutch setters first planted grapes in the mid 1600s on Manhattan Island, however the European cultivated vines they brought, vitus vinifera, did not survive. At the end of the 17th century, French Huguenots escaping persecution in Europe established the town of New Paltz in the Hudson River Valley and promptly planted vines. They succeeded in their endeavor by grafting French vines to Native American grape roots and in the process established some of the nations oldest vineyards.
The state’s wine industry grew in the hundred years after the Civil War, by producing Native American grapes like the Concord. By the 1970s, American tastes grew weary of the sweet, mass-produced jug wines resulting in the decline of New York’s wine industry.The revival of the last 30 years has emerged largely from the successful introduction of vitus vinifera vines in small vineyards across the Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley and Long Island regions of the state, and local wine trails are attracting over 4 million visitors a year, helping the wineries to thrive.
Of the 9 AVAs in the state, the Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley and Long Island regions are the most active.However, the Chautauqua AVA is the largest grape growing county outside of California with over 20,000 acres under cultivation, most of which produce the Concord grape variety.
The bounty and diversity of Connecticut wines is surprising to most wine enthusiasts. Connecticut’s farm wineries occupy more than 1500 acres of open space in the state offering award winning artisan wines. The grapes are often carefully cultivated from first bud through fermentation and are blended in small batches to produce extraordinary wines. The climate is surprisingly mild, producing a range of wines from dry, barrel fermented Chardonnays, Cabernet Francs, Dry Resilings and Seyval Balnc, to fruitier, sweetier whites, reds and late harvest Vidals, Vignoles and other fruitier wines.Some wineries produce sparkling wines, ciders and wines made from pears and apples, peaches, raspberries and blueberries. Commercial wineries were permitted in Connecticut in 1978 with the passing of the Connecticut Winery Act. The Connecticut Wine Trail was established in 1988.
The Connecticut Wine Trail, a state approved winery and vineyard awareness program, is a unique collection of vineyards, each producing exceptional, award winning wines. The trail is divided into two sections, East and West, and provides visitors with special directional signs, brochures and special events. The wine trail is made up of 19 wineries: Jones, McLaughlin, DiGrazia, White Silo Winery, Hopkins, Miranda, Sunset Meadow, Haight-Brown, Land of Nod, Jerram Winery, Gouveia Vineyards, Bishops, Heritage Trail, Chamard, Maugle Sierra, Stonington, Jonathan Edwards, Priam Vineyards and Sharpe Hill.The establishment of the wine trail, and the production of appealing, unique artisan wines, have helped put Connecticut on the country’s wine map.