The history of wine production in the US began thanks to those European pioneers that in the 16th Century arrived and settled in America. These colonizers were immediately attracted to the species of American vines with the aim of reproducing the same famous drink that they enjoyed back home. But, they soon realized that the result was very different and surely unacceptable to the expectations of the European taste. This “inferior” taste resulted in the colonial import of Vitis Vinifera specimens from Europe.
Unfortunately, the attempt at bringing in European specimens failed. Inexplicably, all attempts at cultivation of the European grape species, led to the destruction of the vineyards. The causes of the failure remained unknown for over two centuries until later discoveries found that pests and diseases in the soil were the culprit. Of these diseases, the most fearsome was phylloxera. The European species could not fend off the disease. This is the same phylloxera that later invaded and devastated the European vineyards.
While looking for a solution to the crop failure, winemakers discovered a solution to this issue by hybridizing and crossing species. The first important results came from crossing the European species in California. That was until the flourishing wine industry came to a dramatic stop with the infamous 18th amendment to the Constitution, which marked the beginning of prohibition.
For 13 years, the government banned the production and commercialization of any alcoholic beverage, with the exception of wine for sacramental purposes and any beverage considered as pharmaceutical remedies. The Great Depression followed Prohibition, and it was only in the 70’s that the U.S. wine industry finally started to recover – particularly in California. This state’s wines suddenly burst into popularity worldwide thanks to what’s known as the “Judgement of Paris,” a wine competition where in a blind tasting, Californian wines won against some of the famous French Bordeaux and Burgundy wines.
Still the most important state for wine both in terms of quality and quantity, California still produces over 90 percent of all national win production. Californian wines achieved excellent quality thanks to those winemakers whose belief fuelled their desire to reach the grape’s full potential in the state.
Of all the production areas of California, the most important and best known are:
1) Napa Valley, north of San Francisco, widely planted with Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and popular wine tourism destination;
2) Sonoma, although in the shadows of Napa’s fame for many years, this wine area produces great value, especially with wines made with Chardonnay;
3) Carneros, only a few miles distant of the San Francisco Bay area, this California wine region offers prime climatic conditions likely due to its proximity to the Bay of San Pablo. The slow-ripening process in Carneros particularly favors Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
This state’s location north of California offers distinct wine growing regions that make prime real estate for grape cultivation. Wine enthusiasts will find Oregon’s Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris as the top favorites grown in the state. With over 300 wineries in this region, many vineyards focus on wine tasting as a tourist draw to the area. Oregon is home to three main wine valleys:
• the Williamette Valley, best known for Pinot Noirs, Rieslings and Chardonnays;
• Southern Oregon, formed from the Umpqua and Rogue Valleys and
• Columbia Gorge, which shares its wine-making border with the state of Washington
This wine-producing region borders Oregon to the north and focuses largely on Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. This state is 2nd in wine production behind California. Its exports originate from over 740 wineries and go to more than 40 countries across the globe. Italian immigrants first brought the Cinsault grape to the area and grew vines in the Walla Walla region. The state is home to 12 viticultural areas with the majority located in the eastern part of the state.
The largest state in the continental United States, Texas also shares one of the longest winemaking traditions as well. Early records indicate production began as early as the 1650s by Spanish missionaries in the areas around El Paso. Three main growing regions include the North-Central, South-Eastern and Trans-Pecos regions. Within these wine regions are 8 viticultural areas widely known for being major producers of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
Many people do not realize that New York State is 3rd in the United States for wine production, just behind California and Washington. Most of its production is of Concord grapes along with a few French hybrids and Vitis Vinifera. New York also shares a long history of wine making. Dutch settlers planted in the Hudson Valley as early as the 17th Century although true commercial wine production did not begin until the 1800s. New York State is home to 4 major growing regions.