American Wine Regions
When most people think of American wine, they think of Napa Valley, California. And there is a good reason for this—the Napa Valley produces some of the most highly acclaimed, world-renowned wines made in the United States and the world. But there are 238 American wine regions (American Viticultural Areas), and each has a story to tell. Still, there are a few that stand out in the wine world.
Since the early settlers established themselves in the New World, wine has been made in America. The European migration to America brought centuries of winemaking knowledge and planted the seeds (and, literally, the roots) of wine production in the USA.
For decades, the wine was made for personal consumption or local distribution only, and American was not widely appreciated outside its borders. My, how times have changed. It is the world’s fourth-largest producer of wine, behind France, Italy, and Spain.
Augusta, Missouri, was the first American wine region to receive an AVA designation. Sometimes called the Missouri Rhineland, Augusta was settled by German immigrants more than a century ago. Today, the state boasts more than 90 different wineries, four AVAs, and even a state grape—the Norton.
Virginia’s Central Valley is the site of the home of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Jefferson famously said, “We could in the United States make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good.” Monticello is famous for its award-winning Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Prohibition-era in the early twentieth century almost killed American wine production forever. One region that successfully built back from the Prohibition is California. California produces five times more wine than the next three American states combined: Washington, Oregon, and New York.
Napa Valley alone has over 4,000 wineries and is world-renowned for its Cabernet Sauvignon. On the other side of the Mayacamas Mountains, Sonoma County is known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Further north, Mendocino County’s Pinot Noir has been winning rave reviews for the last decade.
Washington State is second in terms of annual wine production, and the famed Walla Walla Valley is home to some of the country’s best Merlot and Syrah. Located at the base of the Blue Mountains, Walla Walla Valley’s fertile soil is a result of extensive lava flows and ancient floods that created soils that are ideal for growing wine grapes.
Some of the top American wines come from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Oregon’s cool climate is akin to Burgundy’s, making it perfect for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Known for crisp whites, including Riesling, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer, Finger Lakes, New York, is home to more than 100 wineries.
From coast to coast, American wine regions have come into their own in the last fifty years. The United States now offers some of the most extraordinary wine in the world.
If you’ve ever gone wine tasting and heard all these different wine terms, words and phrases, but had no idea what any of it meant, don’t worry about it,