When Napa Valley wines first began making their way out of California and into glasses around the country, many doubted that wines made in the United States could ever be taken seriously by connoisseurs more interested in ‘terroir’ than taste. In 1976, much to the amazement of those naysayers, a blind taste test held in Paris resulted in an American victory over some of the finest French vintages. This unexpected triumph became a source of pride and a key marketing message for American wine producers in California. It increased the market for wine in the US, and contributed to the still-growing foodie movement across the country.
It also inspired residents in other parts of the US to consider whether or not their region might support the growth of grapes, and whether or not there was enough of a local market to get them off the ground. This led the Pacific Northwest, Sonoma Valley, and New York to find huge success in the industry. Below are five states that are carving out their own chunk of the wine market by producing delicious, unique vintages and taking advantage of their local terroir.
Idaho & Winemaking
Poor Idaho. It’s a state that is viewed by other Americans with humour on a good day and derision the majority of the time. The rest of the country doesn’t think terribly highly of this rural state, when they bother to think of it at all. In reality they are missing out on one of the most beautiful natural landscapes still left in the United States, much of which is ideal for wine grapes.
The city of Boise has been growing rapidly for many years, and has a carefully cultivated food culture, which has been helped along by the fact that you can grow almost anything locally. For some time now Idaho has been known to produce high quality cool climate wines like Rieslings and chardonnays, and the Sawtooth Winery actually won the Best Riesling in the US in August, 2012 for their wonderful 2011 bottle. Producers in the state have recently begun focusing on reds, finding great success with a number of merlots, syrahs, and Cabernet Sauvignons.
Virginia’s 200+ Wineries
Virginia’s history with wine dates back at least as far as Thomas Jefferson, who insisted that it had the terroir to produce excellent grapes. Today there are over two hundred wineries in the state, and the bottles coming out of them range from well-known classics to harder to find single-bottled varieties such as petit verdot, cabernet franc, and viognier.
Texas – Lone Star Wine
When you think of Texas it is unlikely that wine is the first thing to come to mind. With over nine million acres of wine grapes and the third most visited wine region in the country, it may be time for that to change. Primarily focused on Italian varietals and Bordeaux blends, the growing wine culture in the Lone Star State is definitely worth a tasting, and be sure not to overlook the stellar Sangioveses and Cabernet Sauvignons.
New Mexico Terroir
Another hot Southwest state that is making a name for itself in the world of wine is New Mexico. Primarily famous for its amazing chili peppers, the rocky desert soil of New Mexico has begun to produce some equally delicious wines. Doug Bell, the national wine buyer for Whole Foods, recently highlighted this state in an interview, particularly praising their sparkling wines, as well as chardonnays and pinot noirs.
Michigan – Weather & Wine
Although the drastic changes in weather have presented some serious challenges to Michigan’s wine growers, they haven’t stopped the producers in the state from coming out with some excellent bottles. By placing vineyards near the great lakes, they’re able to protect the grapes from dramatic swings toward the hot end of the thermometer. This has allowed the grapes that thrive in cooler climates such as Rieslings and chenin blancs to dominate the scene, and the results have been delicious.
Don’t be fooled those claiming the supremacy of ‘Old world wine” are losing ground as surely as the humble corkscrew.
Kayla Stevens loves to travel, and sees wine tasting as one of the best ways to get to know a new place. She currently works as a freelance writer for Midwest Supplies, which provides all of the equipment necessary to make wine at home.