The U.S.A. has been producing wine since before it became a fully-fledged, independent country. Before the original red, white, and blue flag flew proudly in the colonies, grapes were growing. Vineyards had already sprouted all over the fledgling nation.
Did you see our previous article, Wine Regions Of The United States: 6 States You Need To Know? We dove into the six most popular and prolific regions, state by state. In this article, we will take a closer look at six more regions. While not as well known, they should certainly get you itching to tour some new wine country.
Who knows? There might be a region right next door that you never knew about. There have been so many advances in horticulture and hybridization. Therefore, many regions worldwide that would’ve never been able to start successful vineyards are getting in on the action. To see if you’ve got prime wine country nearby, read on.
The Keystone State, the birthplace of the United States, is a fine place for wine. It seems that wherever you could find the founding fathers, you could find wine. And not just on their cellar shelves--in their vineyards as well.
In the early days of Pennsylvania wine, the primary audience was the tourist crowd. But the state’s wine country has since blossomed. And Pennsylvanian wineries are now selling out vintages and receiving worldwide recognition.
Pennsylvania is the 5th largest region in wine production. It churns out nearly 2 million gallons of wine per year! The cherry on top: from anywhere in Pennsylvania, you are less than an hour’s drive from a winery. We think the country’s founders would be very pleased.
For more on the Pennsylvania wine scene, or to plan your wine vacation to the Keystone State, check out pennsylvaniawine.com
With 208 wineries statewide, Ohio isn’t playing around when it comes to winemaking. Ohio vineyards have been producing fine wine since the early 1820s. Historically, it was actually one of the most popular regions in the U.S. Unfortunately, Prohibition slowed things down. It has been a slow recovery as the better growing regions took over the market.
But, by no means does that mean that Ohio is not still an American wine powerhouse. There are six distinct wine trails in the state that could keep you busy for a long time. Ohio is famous for Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay. But it is also known for producing heritage Catawba grapes.
The origins of the Catawba varietal aren’t concrete. But it is likely it came to being around the time of America’s founding and the original colonies. Today, it is a top choice for jams, jellies, juices, and eating by the bunch. But it is still used in Ohio as a sort of mascot varietal. And it is more than just a gimmick.
Don’t pass on the Catawba when it shows up on an Ohio wine list. You’re also likely to find many Old-World-inspired wines along the many wine trails of the Buckeye state. To plan out your Ohio wine spree, check out ohiowines.org.
Along the shores of Lake Michigan, you’ll find the region referred to as “the Napa of The Midwest.” It’s cold, sure, but the gargantuan lake gives the area its own special climate, allowing cool-weather grapes to flourish. I bet you didn’t expect complex, Old-World wine from the Midwest. Honestly, neither did we.
Thanks to the “Lake Effect” of Lake Michigan, over 110 wineries can produce wine that nearby regions can only dream of. Five distinct appellations with five distinct winemaking styles make up the production foundation for the Great Lake State.
Old World grapes like Riesling, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Grigio do well in this unique climate. Basically, any continental European grape will do well here. But a number of New World hybrids thrive as well. Thanks to the rest of the state’s icy climate in the winter months, Michigan also produces some excellent ice wines.
The state has spent most of its viticultural life growing table grapes for food products and some very sweet wines. But since the mid-70s, we’ve seen a wine boom in the Napa of The Midwest. So, don’t be surprised to find your new favorite Old-World wine on a Michigan list.
To start recon on your Michigan wine adventure, check out michiganwinecollaborative.com.
For one of the best German-style wine experiences in the states, Missouri’s Rhineland is the place to be. In the mid-1800s, German immigrants settled down in Missouri. Lucky for the Show-Me State, those German immigrants happened to be expert winemakers. By the late 1800s, Missouri was making more wine than anywhere else in the country.
With 149 wineries and growing, 4 unique AVAs, and a heavy Germanic influence, Missouri is a wine destination not to be missed. But the grapes aren’t all German; in fact, the climate isn’t suited for the colder, continental styles. Instead, Missouri focuses on American grapes like Concord, Catawba, and Missouri’s own state grape, Norton.
Unlike many American varietals, the Norton grape produces robust, dark, dry reds with more nuance than sweetness. Matured Norton wines take on heady spice and minerality. So, if you needed a reason to visit Missouri wine country, there you go. Look into the state’s wine territories at missouriwine.org.
As a western state, we were surprised to learn that New Mexico has been producing wine since 1629. That’s long before it was technically a state. And the original grapes that were planted along the Rio Grande River? They were brought over from Spain by Catholic monks for sacramental wine.
Fast forward a few hundred years, and New Mexico has become one of the nation’s most prominent wine producers. With over 60 wineries, the state produces around 900,000 gallons of vino every year. Heritage grapes from Italy, France, and Spain all do very well in the fertile Rio Grande Valley.
Though Prohibition attempted to strike down wine production in New Mexico (and every other region in the country), it faltered but didn’t fail. Just as the German settlers brought their wine expertise to Missouri, the Spaniards brought theirs to New Mexico. At nearly 400 years old, the New Mexico wine country is almost as old as Virginia’s, making it one of the nation’s oldest. For a genuinely Old-World wine experience in the lower 48, look no further than New Mexico. For more information, check out heartofthedesert.com
Like many states, Idaho had a booming wine industry in the 1800s, only to have it nearly snuffed out by Prohibition. Thankfully, time heals all wounds. And Idaho has been back on its feet, wine-wise, since the ‘70s. Viticulture is actually Idaho’s fastest-growing agricultural industry. Who would’ve thought?
It’s not just potatoes anymore, folks. Idaho has got more grapes than it knows what to do with. Idaho’s premier wine-growing region has a similar climate to Eastern Washington. But it also has the added benefit of the Rocky Mountain Foothills. This allows for a perfect sweet spot in growing conditions, where elevation meets precipitation with a lot of sun and summer heat.
Cooler climate varietals do well in Idaho. These include Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. Sparkling wines, as well as ice wines, also shine. The Snake River Valley not only makes a perfect spot for grapes to grow, but it is breathtakingly beautiful. Even if you end up with a corked bottle, the views will more than makeup for it.
For the best new American wine region you’ve never heard of, consider Idaho and check out winesnw.com.
From Idaho to Pennsylvania, you’ll find unique wine all over the sprawling expanse of the United States. Some operations are almost 400 years old, and some still have paint drying in the tasting room.
There are so many regions to experience and so many wines to imbibe and be inspired by. We hope that this second installment in our wine series has opened your eyes to the possibilities. They might lay just past your doorstep, just across the state line, or on the other end of the country. Choose your adventure!
Which wine region in the United States best suits you?