Unquestionably, California, Washington, Oregon and New York State are best known and most prolific in the production of wine, but all other states with the possible exception of Alaska have small wineries that cater to the local and sometimes even to the regional population.
Presently, there are close to 1000 wineries outside of the four leading wine-producing states.
The pioneers who planted the vineyards built the wineries and worked in the cellars; they comprised a dedicated and diverse people. Some are eccentrics others professionals turned winemakers, and others, farmers with a genuine interest to produce wines of the “terroir”.
Arizona nor Connecticut will never replace California in wine production, but they have products that deserve the attention of the wine drinking population, if nothing else, to experience their uniqueness.
Consumers who look only to California, Washington, Oregon, and N Y for American wine are missing out on panoply of flavours and often intriguing quality.
While cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, and chardonnay reign supreme in better-known wine states, others favour hybrids (for climatic reasons) and lesser known, but equally interesting grape varieties.
Among others tempranillo, sangiovese, carignane, grenache, petit verdot, petit syrah, zweigelt, viognier, and sauvignon blanc can be found.
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire produce considerable amounts of white and red wines. Despite short and humid summers, some fine white wines are vented through advanced technology which helps correct their repercussions of adverse climatic conditions.
In Connecticut, vignoles and chardonnay yield fine, light, acid-driven, fragrant, un-oaked wines capable of aging for a few years, most due to their elevated acidity.
Throughout Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia 230 wineries operate. Some produce grape- and other fruit wines.
Here, the first vineyards date back to 16th century Huguenots and 18th century Colonists. Virginia is the largest producer with over 70 wineries. Here, well-known varieties are planted in an attempt to appeal to tourists. Chardonnay is the leading white, followed by sauvignon blanc, and cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc merlot, syrah, and petit verdot are the most popular reds.
Zonin, a large Italian winery, bought a huge tract of land and planted among other varieties, viognier and syrah in the hopes that they would yield more appealing wines when the wines reach the age of ten.
Virginia wines are well made, but often lack depth due to the young age of vineyards, climatic conditions, and high yields.
Texas is now the seventh largest wine producer in the union. Here, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah make up the region. The history of wine can be traced back to 17th century missionaries who planted vines for sacramental wines. Texas produces some fine cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and syrah blends. Malbec, grenache and tempranillo are also planted for experimental purposes.
Viognier, and marsanne are preferred white grapes
Some of the red wines produced in Texas are fine, but heavy-handed barrel aging seems to overwhelm delicate fruitiness rendering them astringent.
New Mexico and Arizona, both sunny regions, must irrigate. Conscientious farmers employ deficit irrigation by means of drip-irrigation installations, stressing vines, thus producing intensely flavoured fruit. The wines are dark, well extracted, but too tannic and high in alcohol. Cellar technology can help produce better wines. Good old American entrepreneurial zeal will certainly solve many of the problems in this regard.
Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin look back to 18th century French settlers for making sacramental wines. After the American revolution and through the 19th century, Swiss ands German settlers have been instrumental in expanding viticulture.
Here, hybrids dominate due to climatic conditions. (Hot dry summers and extremely cold winters require hardy vines) Michigan is well known for its sparkling wines,
In Missouri, Norton grapes yield intensely coloured plumy wines with high acidity. With a few years cellaring, these wines taste quite nice.
In Ohio riesling does well.
The Mountain States
Idaho and Colorado’s fist vineyards were planted in the 19th century, but Prohibition soon squashed hopes of producing large quantities of wine. Now Colorado has approximately 250 hectares of vineyards and 40 wineries/Idaho has 18.
Merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, chardonnay, semillon, riesling grow well and yield mid-weight, flavourful wines.
Considering the youthfulness of vines, this should be regarded as encouraging.
Hawaii’s only winery produces a fine red from carnelian grapes.
Alaska’s four wineries employ grape juice and grape juice concentrates to produce wine.
Wine enthusiasts used to consuming chardonnay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon may be puzzled to see labels that read de chaunac, leon-millot, marechal foch, baco noir; these are the grapes American growers started with and some eventually switched to vitis vinifera grapes.
Hybrids were developed both in the USA and European countries in an attempt to create early-ripening, and/or disease or cold resistant vines.
Some have been more successful than others. There are still scientists, Elmer Swanson comes to mind, developing hybrids in search of yet more refined taste and textural profiles.
In addition to hybrids, many native vines belonging to vitis labrusca, vitis rotundifolia, and vitis riparia family, exist.
Some of the common hybrids are:
Carnelian (cabernet sauvignon and grenache); produces plumy, rough textured wines. Meant for warm climates.
Catawba : a productive pink-skinned hybrid with a noticeable methyl-antrinilate aroma. Mostly used for sparkling wines, coolers and grape jelly.
Cayuga: popular in the northeast, this white hybrid yields light, fruity, lime-flavoured wines.
Chambourcin; developed in France, this vigorous grape yields soft, dark coloured red wines that can be enjoyable and charming.
Chardonel: (chardonnay and seyval blanc): developed in NY state, it is cold resistant and yields light flowery, soft white wines.
Norton: sometimes also called cythiana, this hybrid of undetermined parentage can produce full-bodied, dark, red wines without antrinilate aromas.
Seyval blanc: widely planted in the north-east, it yields light, wines with noticeable apple and lime flavours. Developed in France, seyval blanc is used in blends.
Vidal blanc is very popular with ice wine makers because of its thick skin resistant to shattering. It can produce fruity and mild white wines.
Vignoles developed in France by hybridisers Tessier and Ravat, this sweet high acid grape variety has become popular with upper New York state growers for late harvest and ice wines.
Baco noir crossbred by Francois Baco in 1894 (folle blanche and a variety of vitis riparia gloire) yields dark, deeply flavoured, rich wines but only if yields are kept low. Cold resistant. Ontario growers have been very successful in growing fine baco noir.