Wine is produced in all 50 states so why do we automatically think of California when we hear the term “wine country”? Saturday, November 7th marks the 3rd Annual Wine Tourism Day and in honor of this vinous holiday, I’m happy to share 4 US wine regions you need to add to your travel itinerary:
1.) Virginia: Wine production began here in 1607, when government regulations stipulated each male settler in Jamestown must plant and tend at least 10 grapevines to produce wine which was sent back to Mother England. In 1807, Thomas Jefferson began cultivating European grapes at his Monticello Estate and has since been dubbed “The Father of the American Wine Industry” even though he didn’t have much success actually making wine. While Virginia’s wine industry began primarily with indigenous American grape varieties, mostly vitis vinifera vines (European vines such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon) are grown today with a smaller percentage of French hybrids and American varieties. Virginia currently ranks 5th in the US in overall number of wineries and its the country’s 5th largest grape producer. Grapes which perform well in the state’s warm climate include Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Vidal Blanc. For more information on Virginia Wine Country please click here and be sure to put the following wineries on your list: Barboursville Vineyards, Horton Vineyards, Trump Winery (formerly Kluge Estate), RdV Vineyards, and Linden Vineyards.
2.) North Carolina: Wine has been produced here since the early days of European colonization in the 17th century and like most budding wine regions in the United States, it was originally based on indigenous American vines and was ultimately decimated by Prohibition in the 1920’s. North Carolina’s wine industry has slowly recovered over the years and today, most wine produced is made from vitis vinifera vines although French hybrids and vitis labrusca varieties are also common. North Carolina is home to over 100 wineries, which has quadrupled since 2001 and ranks 10th in both grape and wine production in the US. The state’s wine industry continues to expand, and today is one of the US’s 5 most visited state destinations for wine and culinary tourism. For more information on North Carolina Wine Country please click here and be sure to add these wineries to your list: Biltmore Estate, Raffaldini Vineyards, Jones von Drehle and Westbend Vineyards & Brewery.
3.) Washington: As the second leading producer of wine in the United States you’d think Washington would attract as many visitors as California but that’s not the case…yet! The first grape vines were planted here in 1825 by fur traders and German and Italian immigrants in the Walla Walla region. The state was also decimated by Prohibition in the 1920’s, and Washington’s wine industry floundered until the 1950’s when vitis vinifera grapes were introduced and in depth study was conducted of soil, climate and grape vine viability. In the 1950’s and 60’s, the precursors of the state’s biggest wineries Chateau Ste Michelle and Columbia Winery were founded and over the ensuing years Washington’ ability to cater to a variety of grapes became evident. In 1984, the Columbia Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) was established which today, contains 99% of wine grapes grown in the state. Grape varieties which have adapted particularly well to Washington’s wine country are Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. For more information on Washington Wine Country, please click here and be sure to add the following wineries to your list: Chateau Ste. Michelle, Seven Hills Winery, Charles Smith Wines, Cayuse Vineyards, Northstar Winery and Canoe Ridge Vineyards.
4.) New Mexico: Wine has been produced in here since 1629, when a Franciscan friar and Capuchín monk planted the first wine grapes in the Río Grande valley. The cuttings brought by the missionaries were a variety of vitis vinifera, commonly called the “mission grape” which is still grown in New Mexico today. By 1880, viticulture had really taken hold, but declined in the latter 19th century due, in part, to flooding of the Río Grande and Prohibition which forced many wineries in the United States to close. The modern New Mexico wine industry received a significant shot in the arm in 1978 when a government-sponsored study encouraged winegrowers to plant French hybrid grape varieties. New Mexico now has more than 60 wineries producing 900,000 US gallons of wine annually. The state’s sun-soaked soil and cool high-desert nights frame the return of modern wine making producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Johannisburg Riesling, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc & Zinfandel. Wineries currently span the breadth of the state For more information on New Mexico wine country, please click here and be sure to add the following wineries to your itinerary: Gruet Winery, Caduceus Cellars, Casa Rondeña, Luna Rossa Winery, Tularosa Vineyards.
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