10 Essential Facts on American Wine

Thomas Jefferson once said, “We could in the United States make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good.” America’s love affair with wine stretches as far back as the colonial period, and since those times, the United States has blossomed into one of the world’s most revolutionary wine producing nations. As you celebrate the red, white, and blue with a glass of red, white, or rosé, remember that America’s Founding Fathers were also sipping wine on July 4, 1776. From New York to Virginia, California to Alaska, discover the dynamic history of wine in the United States in ten essential facts. 1. 50 STATES OF WINE — Following Italy, France, and Spain, the United States is the world’s fourth largest producer of wine. California alone would achieve that same designation, bottling 81% of America’s output. Even so, grapes are harvested and wine is made in all fifty states, including Alaska, where one grower cultivates vines in a greenhouse. 2. THE FIRST AVA — In the United States, regulated wine appellations are called American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs. As of June 2018, 241 AVAs have been approved, with 139 in California alone. The Napa Valley was the second AVA to earn the designation. Which was the first? Surprisingly, it was the Augusta AVA in Missouri, famous for the Norton grape. 3. WELCOME TO VINLAND — When Leif Erikson and the Norse Vikings first landed on North American shores around 1000 A.D., they deemed the continent “Vinland” for its abundance of wild grapevines. The first plantings of Vitis vinifera, the European grape species responsible for every notable grape variety, arrived in 1629 in Senecú, in what is today New Mexico. 4. COLONIAL ROOTS — In 1619, just a dozen years after the colony’s founding, the Virginia House of Burgesses at Jamestown passed “Acte 12,” which required every male settler to cultivate ten imported French grapevines for the purposes of wine production. Today, Virginia is home to the sixth greatest number of wineries of any state, thriving in such appellations as the Shenandoah Valley, Monticello, North Fork of Roanoke, and Northern Neck George Washington Birthplace. 5. A TOAST TO FREEDOM — On July 4, 1776, to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers raised a glass of Madeira. The Portuguese fortified wine was the colonial era favorite, boasting strong British ties and proving sturdy enough to withstand the trans-Atlantic voyage without spoilage. The Southern colonies preferred the drier Madeira styles of Sercial, Terrantez, and Verdelho, while the Northern colonies favored Malmsey and Bual. 6. JEFFERSON AND WINE — Perhaps America’s greatest early advocate for wine was none other than our third President, Thomas Jefferson. Like most colonists, Jefferson’s first vinous interactions were with Port , Sherry , and Madeira. He expanded his palate during the Revolutionary War when Hessian troops – German mercenaries fighting for the British – held captive near Monticello introduced him to German wines. Subsequent tours of the great vineyards of France and Italy solidified his love affair, prompting him to ship bottles directly to his cellar back home. While Jefferson grew “Scuppernong,” an American grape, at Monticello, he continually failed to cultivate European varieties, despite his continual efforts. 7. AN AMERICAN IN FRANCE — Sixty-eight years before the Médoc’s famous 1855 Classification that remains in use today, Thomas Jefferson created a ranking of Bordeaux’s great estates during a 1787 trip to the region while serving as the United States Ambassador to France. The top rung of both Jefferson’s and the 1855 Classification were identical, listing what are now Latour, Margaux, Lafite-Rothschild, and Haut-Brion as the incomparable First Growth properties (Mouton-Rothschild was later elevated to First Growth status in 1973). 8. AMERICAN PEST, AMERICAN SOLUTION — The most infamous vineyard nuisance of all time, phylloxera, is indigenous to the United States. This vine-killing aphid made its way to France in the early 1860s, by way of the intercontinental trade of plant material, decimating nearly every European winegrowing region over the ensuing decades. The solution to phylloxera also came from the United States, however. Vintners learned that grape species native to the United States were largely resistant to phylloxera, and that vineyards could be saved by grafting vines onto American rootstocks. While European grapes continue to dominate the wine world today, their roots are all American. 9. IN A NEW YORK STATE OF WINE — America’s oldest continuously operating winery, Brotherhood Winery, was founded in 1838 in Washingtonville, New York. Historically, the Hudson Valley winery has gained the most attention for its aromatized wines made from American grape species, although Brotherhood has grown European varieties for the last several decades. New York remains the third largest wine producing state, just behind California and Washington and with nearly triple the production of Oregon . 10. PROHIBITION, SHMOHIBITION—No event shook the American wine industry more than Prohibition, which banished the sale of alcohol from 1920 to 1933. Some wineries (including Brotherhood) stayed in business by legally producing sacramental wine. A more creative solution, however, was the sale of “wine bricks” to home winemakers. Several California vintners would sell compressed blocks of grapes, ideally from darkly pigmented varieties such as Alicante Bouschet , packaged with explicit instructions for “how NOT to turn these grapes into wine.” Thankfully, consumers realized that these rules were meant to be broken, saving some of America’s oldest vineyards from being uprooted in the process. — Bryce Wiatrak Will the corks be flying while you’re watching the fireworks? We can’t wait to see how you’re celebrating Independence Day! Scan the label and add your tasting notes on Delectable.

Dunn Vineyards

Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 1987

Shay A

Another 4th Friday for the books. What a much needed time out of the house and to be with friends after this past week.

Randy Dunn is a genius and there’s really nothing else to say. I’ve been fortunate to have the ‘87 and ‘88 within a 6-week span and both are drinking absolutely wonderfully. Nice tannic structure still. Rhubarb spice, muddled blackberries, and herbal spice. The finish is still quite lengthy! Another reason why Howell Mtn is my favorite AVA out of Napa.
— 5 years ago

Dan FitzgeraldMark FlesherBenjamin Keator
with Dan, Mark and 1 other
Mark, Eric and 50 others liked this
Mark Flesher

Mark Flesher

Definitely a nice wine. I think I was the first to take from the bottle 2 minutes after it was popped. That turned out to be a mistake. This one needed to breathe as it had quite a bit of funk right at the start. Came back to it later to show a really improved wine with aged blackberry and lots of rhubarb and fig. Finish was longer than I anticipated. Randy et al are awesome. But this one was definitely more 9j the brambly side whereas the 88 seemed to be a little more level.
Bret Barker

Bret Barker

What a treat! Never had older vintages of Dunn
Shay A

Shay A Influencer Badge Premium Badge

@Bret Barker : I’ve been fortunate to have ‘87 and ‘88 and both were just wonderful. Still plenty of time left in them.

Vinhos Barbeito

The Rare Wine Co. Historic Series Boston Madeira Special Reserve Bual

Mixed nuts: hazelnut, pecan, walnut, with Vanilla, herbal notes, whip cream, fig newton, prune and raisin on the nose.
Huge pecans on the palate with candied orange peel and just overdone caramel sauce. Awesome end to dinner.
— 8 years ago

Douglas liked this

L. Mawby

Talismon Brut Champagne Blend

This is dynamite stuff. I think it might all be Vignoles even. 5 years in the bottle before disgorgement. Yeasty, bright, and beautiful! — 9 years ago

Philip liked this
Scott Kirkpatrick

Scott Kirkpatrick Influencer Badge

Actually it's not Vignoles. It's a blend.

Ravines Wine Cellars

Finger Lakes Chardonnay 2015

Ravines puts the I ❤️ NY back in my spirit. Golden apples with just a hint of butter, intensely flavored, best drunk at a hot spring sunset on top of Manhattan. — 5 years ago

Jedd Flanscha
with Jedd
Jedd, Ron and 3 others liked this

Barboursville Vineyards

Reserve Virginia Cabernet Franc 2014

Bob Bryden

Wonderfully balanced, with ripe red cherry, blackberry, and bell peppers but with a wonderful floral note and low AbV of 13.5 pct. one of the best Virginia wines I have tasted. Kudos to winemaker Luca Paschina. — 6 years ago

Tom Gordon
with Tom
Gregory, Severn and 1 other liked this

Red Newt Cellars

Dry Riesling 2013

Pale yellow color. Interesting nose. Orange peel, grapefruit, apricot, and some dustiness. Same not the palate, with some key lime and lemon curd as well. Decent acidity. Dry. Rather enjoyable. — 8 years ago

Philip liked this

Bergström Wines

Bergström Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008

Wow, what a treat! Bergström's vineyards have a distinctive iron/mineral characteristic that's super appealing. Super smooth tannins and subtle acidity make this vintage easy to drink and it's totally palate pleasing. Sweet aromas of rose petals and violets with lovely earthy characteristics that aren't overpowering and simply alluring. Incredibly well balanced. Nice white pepper finish that lasts forever. — 9 years ago

Alishia, Andrew and 2 others liked this

Carlisle Winery & Vineyards

Rossi Ranch Zinfandel 2015

Oh my! Very old vine Zinfandel field blended with Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet and Grand Noir. Hints of cherries and stone fruits. Long aftertaste and a gorgeous nose. Hurrah for Carlise for finding and sourcing from these heritage vineyards. Highly recommended! — 5 years ago

Peter liked this

Leonetti Cellar

Walla Walla Valley Merlot 2009

Gorgeous merlot. First night smooth and balanced. On the Second night it's personality surfaced with an olfactory flashback to a 2001 Chevalier Blanc of a few years ago. Deep, lush, long, Dark berries, smoke, ... and in the 3rd night before disappearing... a bit gamey. Wish you could freeze this stuff in that perfect moment!? (Why haven't we figured out that technology. Come on delectable teammates !). — 6 years ago

Jason, Chris and 20 others liked this

King Family Vineyards

Monticello Viognier 2014

Greg Ballington

First wine tasted at King Family Vineyards. Aged in French oak, stainless steel and concrete egg. Also some Acacia wood too. Clear pale yellow. White floral notes on the nose, and some notes of apricot and peach. Zesty palate, with white fruits, crisp and refreshing. Light to moderate acidity and light bodied wine. Slight minerality in the finish. Light in texture. Drink till 2018. 1,384 cases produced. — 7 years ago

Ron, David and 3 others liked this