Top Ten American Wine Regions

Top Ten American Wine Regions

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  1. Sonoma County, California
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    Although many associate premium California wines with Napa, Sonoma County is currently becoming a major wine destination in the world. Starting in 1812, Russian colonists planted grapes at Fort Ross on the Sonoma Coast. In 1823, Spanish Franciscan Father Altamira planted thousands of vines in Sonoma.  When the missions were taken over by the Mexican government in 1834, cuttings from Sonoma Mission vineyards were transported and planted throughout northern California. Today Sonoma County has 15 distinct AVAs with more than 250 wineries and 50 grape varieties including Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, and the sought after Russian River, Carneros and Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. It is estimated that the wine industry and related tourism contributes over $8 billion to the local economy each year, about 40% of the county’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Wine seekers love the laid-back, unpretentious atmosphere of many of the wineries.  The largest judging of American wines in the world, The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, is held yearly in Sonoma County’s quaint town of Cloverdale. In 2013, the event had over 5,500 entries from most of the wine regions represented in the United States.
    Links: Top Ten Sonoma County AppelationsTop Ten Sonom County WineriesTop 100 Sonoma County Wines, http://sonoma.com/wineries/alphalistings.html,
  2. Napa Valley, California

    The Napa Valley is the most well known wine region in the US with more than 450 wineries producing outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, pinot noir, merlot and zinfandel. Commercial wine production in the region dates back to the 19th century. John Patchett established the Napa Valley’s first commercial vineyard in 1858 although Charles Krug is commonly cited as establishing the area’s first winery in 1861. Inglenook Winery in 1879 was the first Bordeaux style winery in the USA winning gold medals at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. By the end of the 19th century there were more than 140 wineries in the area. Of those original wineries, several still exist in the valley today including Beaulieu, Beringer, Charles Krug, Chateau Montelena, Far Niente, Mayacamas, Markham Vineyards and Schramsberg Vineyards. Viticulture in Napa suffered several setbacks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including an outbreak of the vine disease phylloxera, Prohibition and the Great Depession. The modern era of winemaking in California began when Beaulieu hired André Tchelisticheff in 1938. He introduced key ideas which included aging wine in small French Oak barrels, cold fermentation, vineyard frost prevention, and malolactic fermentation. The wine industry in Napa Valley was cemented with the help of the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, establishing this region as a producer of quality wine equal to that of Old World wine regions. Within the Napa Valley AVA, there are sixteen sub-AVAs, Los Carneros, Howell Mountain, Wild Horse Valley, Stags Leap District, Mt. Veeder, Atlas Peak, Spring Mountain, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, Chiles Valley, Yountville, Diamond Mountain, Oak Knoll, Calistoga, and Coombsville.
    Links: http://napavalley.com/wineries/alphalistings.html,
  3. Willamette Valley, Oregon
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    The Willamette Valley is located between Oregon’s Coast Range and the Cascades. Most of the wine grapes grown here come from vineyards located on bench-land hillsides in the western portion of the Valley. The three million acres of vineyards are divided into six- sub AVAs: ChehalemMountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton. A cool climate, rainy winters and long daylight hours during growing season are ideal for growing pinots, both pinot gris and pinot noir. Some of the 400 wineries in this region also produce some Chardonnay, Rielsing, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot. Berry farms and hazelnut and grass seed fields are also found in the valley, as are pine farms where Christmas trees are grown. To the north of this region is the city of Portland, an attractive, ecofriendly tourist destination.
    Links:  http://willamettewines.com/wineries/,
  4. Finger Lakes, New York
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    The Finger Lakes region in upstate New York supplies 90% of the wine produced in the state. The Pleasant Valley Wine Company is the region’s oldest winery and has been winning awards across the world since 1867.  The area has nearly 100 independent wineries with more than 11,000 acres of vineyard mainly around Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake, two of the more prominent eleven Finger Lakes. The main varietals include Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer. The beautiful hills, rivers and lakes here are also a draw for nature lovers exploring the regional network of trails after they’ve had their fill of wine tastings and vineyard viewing. This area is ideal for people traveling from East Coast cities such as Boston, Pittsburgh and New York City. The annual Finger Lakes Wine Festival is held each July. With a focus on sustainable growing practices, this area is producing high quality wines and is fast becoming one of the up-and-coming wine-producing regions in the U.S.
    Links: http://www.fingerlakes.com/wine,
  5. Long Island, New York
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    Just two hours from Manhattan, the North and South Forks of Long Island extend 120 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Located here are the two winemaking regions, the North Fork and the Hamptons.  The first commercially grown grapes on Long Island were planted in 1973 by optimistic Harvard graduates Louisa and Alex Hargrave. Most vineyards are located at the East End in the counties of Nassau and Suffolk with over 50 unique wineries. The North Fork comprises approximately 3,000 acres of vineyards with about 40 wineries which produce wines from twenty different varietals. The Hamptons are notably cooler than the North Fork due to fog and ocean breezes; four wineries are located here. In little over a quarter of a century, the Long Island wine industry has grown from one small vineyard to 3,000 acres of vines and over fifty producers of world-class wines.  Family-owned farms, artisanal food producers and small-production winemakers coexist among Hamptonites, sharing the wealth of the region’s many gifts.   With similarities in maritime climate and northerly latitude with Bordeaux, Long Island  primarily grows outstanding Merlot. In recent years, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc have been added to the list. Some top producers are Paumanok Vineyards, Macari Vineyards, Shinn Estate Vineyards and Farmhouse, Lenz, Bedell and Sparkling Pointe all located on the North Fork. The South Fork is home to only three wineries, but they are equally impressive.
    Links:
  6. Temecula Valley, California
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    The TemeculaValley is a small, rural wine region in southern California with a climate similar to that of Spain and southern Italy. The region is one hour northeast of San Diego located in Riverside County. Over 200 years ago, winemaking began in California at Mission San Juan Capistrano 50 miles west of Temecula. The first modern commercial vineyards in Temecula Valley were established in 1968. There are over 40 wineries here. In addition to growing Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc, varietals such as Viognier, Syrah and Pinot Gris have recently been added. In addition, Temecula Valley’s hotter climate is particularly well-suited to grapes such as the Rhone varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. The Annual Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival occurs in late spring.
    Links: http://www.temeculawines.org/,
  7. The Sierra Foothills, California
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    Grapes were introduced to the area in the 19th century during the California Gold Rush in the 1850’s in the Shenandoah Valley in Amador County. The Sierra Foothills AVA, recognized in 1987,  includes eight California counties: Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Mariposa, Nevada, Placer, Tuolumne and Yuba. The total area of the appellation is 2,600,000 acres, with nearly 6,000 acres of grapevines, one of the largest AVAs in the state of California. The most common grape variety is Zinfandel, but you will also find Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Barbera, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. There are over 100 wineries located within the Sierra Foothills AVA.
    Links: 
    http://www.calwineries.com/explore/regions/sierra-foothills,
  8. Washington State, Columbia, Yakima, Walla Walla and Horse Heaven Hills
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    Located on the same latitude as Burgundy and Bordeaux southern France, the Columbia valley is located about three hours from Washington’s largest city, Seattle. The valley lies in a rain shadow caused by the cascades creating a dry, continental climate.  Forty thousand acres of vineyards are planted here.  Within the ColumbiaValley is the Yakima Valley, Washington’s first AVA established in 1983. Forty percent of Washington state’s yearly wine production comes from the 12,000 acres of vineyards in the Yakima region. The most common grape varietals are Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. In addition to grapes, the Yakima Valley is  home to several fruit orchards growing apples, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums. The area also grows nearly 80% of the U.S. hop production. There are more than 80 wineries in this area, making it a great choice for people who want to explore the winemaking industry in a rural setting. The Catch the Crush harvest festival occurs each October; wineries open their doors to music, grape-stomping and unique tasting events. An even more rural grape-growing area can be found in the Walla Walla Valley, a relatively dry region tucked in the southeast corner, where some of the West Coast’s best red wines are produced. Horse Heaven Hills is part of the much larger Columbia Valley and produces 25 percent of Washington State’s wine. It’s situated in between the Yakima Valley and the Columbia River. Horse Heaven Hills produced Washington’s first 100-point wines, as deemed by The Wine Advocate, Robert Parker, the 2002 and 2003 Quilceda Creek Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon.
    Links: WashingtonWineCountry.org, WineYakimaValley.org,
  9. Paso Robles, California
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    Paso Robles meaning Pass of the Oaks is located in the coastal mountain range of central California. In the County of San Luis Obispo wine grapes were introduced in 1797 by the Spanish conquistadors and Franciscan missionary padres of the Mission San Miguel where wine making artifacts can still be seen. There are over 180 wineries with 26,000 acres of vineyards in this region. Commercial winemaking was introduced to the Paso Robles region in 1882. The Paso Robles wine region gained notoriety when Ignace Paderewski, a famous Polish statesman and concert pianist, visited Paso Robles, became enchanted with the area, and purchased 2,000 acres. In the early 1920s, he planted Petite Sirah and Zinfandel on his Rancho San Ignacio vineyard that went on to become award-winners solidifying Paso Robles as a premier wine region. Now, in addition to the first plantings of the Rhône varietal Syrah in California, Paso Robles also has the largest acreage of Syrah, Viognier and Roussanne.  Some of the other 40 varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and old vine Zinfandel.
    Links: Sculptures, www.pasowine.com/wineries/,
  10. Texas Hill Country
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    The wide-open spaces, forested hills and rugged landscapes of Texas Hill Country are attractive to anyone with a love of nature and an appreciation of uncrowded rural landscapes. Approved in 1991, it is the 2nd largest AVA in the U.S. covering 15,000 square miles. North of San Antonio and west of Austin, more than 30 wineries can be found in this region of the Lone Star State pouring mainly zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with lesser amounts of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. The historic town of Fredricksburg is the starting point for a vineyard tour that follows U.S. Highway 290 and includes a dozen quality wineries. The Austin Wine and Music Festival is usually held in April.  In all, the state of Texas currently has eight approved AVAs.
    Links: TexasWineTrail.com,
  11. Grand Valley, Colorado
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    The western slope of the Rockies has an ideal climate for growing certain grape varietals that produce quality wines. The vineyards are located around the towns of Palisade and Grand Junction along the Colorado River. Some wineries also grow peach and cherries. Many wineries make fruit wines using local stone fruit in addition to traditional grape vintages. More than 85% percent of Colorado’s premium wine grape vineyards are located in this area. Grape varietals include Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Wines produced from these grapes are winning major national and international awards for their quality. Colorado is home to over 80 wineries. The Colorado Mountain Winefest is held in Palisade every September.
    Links: http://www.grandvalleywine.com/,
  12. Loudon County, Virginia
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    Loudon County, a winemaking region that sits just outside of Washington, D.C., has flourished in the past few decades. With the onset of wine making in the 1600’s at Jamestown Colony, wineries in this region today are situated amid some famous historic sites.  Despite its location near one of the world’s most important cities, this area has a very rural flavor. There are over 30 wineries in Loudon County with an overall 200 wineries in the state of Virginia. The main varietals include Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chamourcin, Merlot, and a native Virginia red varietal called Norton. Central Virginia also produces wine particularly in the Monticello AVA. This is the region where Thomas Jefferson grew grapes on his estate in the 1770’s before the Revolutionary War began. Wine Enthusiast magazine recently named Virginia one of its top 10 wine travel destinations for 2012.
    Links: http://www.virginiawine.org/,
  13. Links: Wine, Top Ten Wine Regions,

Enjoy!