It is the season to be patriotic and celebrate all things American. This summer, let us all proudly open a bottle of wine grown in the USA. While the western states of California, Oregon and Washington get a lot of (deserved) recognition, it may be somewhat surprising that wine is made in all 50 states. I’ve explored some of the lesser known states’ wineries. Here are several on my radar.
Most people picture New York and envision skyscrapers and lights. But New York is also known for its lean chardonnays, sleek merlots and fantastic dessert wines. It is home to the oldest continuous working winery in the country — Brotherhood Winery in the Hudson River Valley, operating since 1839. Wagner Vineyards in the Finger Lakes region is making knockout ice wine (a sweet wine made from frozen grapes) from 100 percent vignoles (a French-American hybrid).
When I think of Michigan wines, my mind jumps to cherry and other fruit wines. However, there are wineries making award-winning wines with both European and American varietals. One of Michigan’s top wineries is Chateau Grand Traverse. While they focus on riesling, Chateau Grand Traverse also makes chardonnay, grüner veltliner, pinot noir and merlot.
One of the oldest wine regions in the U.S., Texas’ viticulture began with Franciscan priests planting vineyards to make wine for mass. Texas has hot days and cool nights, making it a perfect fit for wine growing. Although the heat does affect the season length, they harvest several months ahead of other regions. Wineries to try are Fall Creek Vineyards and Ste. Genevieve.
The first vines planted in New Mexico were of the mission grape, believed to be indigenous to Spain in 1629 by Franciscan and Capuchin monks. In addition to the mission grape, New Mexico now grows cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, and zinfandel. Located outside a town named Truth or Consequences is Gruet Winery, which has taken on almost a cult status. Gruet makes award-winning sparkling wines in the traditional Champagne method.
The Sunshine State has some of the oldest vines from the St. Augustine and Jacksonville areas that date back to the 1560s, and several wineries statewide, seven of which are active wineries in Northwest Florida. Chautauqua Vineyards and Winery in nearby DeFuniak Springs produces traditional Southern favorites including sweet muscadine wine and blueberry wine, as well as specialty wines.
California is the undisputed king of American wine, with Oregon and Washington next in line. But there is wine to be had from every state. Next time you visit a new area and see a sign for a winery tour, pull over. You might be surprised by what you find. Let’s uncork all of what America has to offer.
Karen Granger is a sommelier and wine enthusiast. She is currently pouring wine at 45 Central in Seaside.