North America

The Other States

  • California accounts for 94% of all commercial production in the U.S. The majority of the remaining 6% is produced in just a few states, notably Washington, Oregon and New York.

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  • Wine production in Washington state is located in the southeast portion of the state. The area is growing rapidly and now has 25,000 acres in production. The region is divided into three regions, the Columbia Valley, the Yakima Valley and Walla Walla, but grapes from any of these regions can be sold as Columbia Valley AVA.

    Conditions in Washington are cool and dry since the Cascade Mountains provide a rain break that eliminates influence from the Pacific. The region is technically a desert, and vines would not survive without irrigation. Cold weather damage in the winter is fairly common and the summers are hot. The positive side of this climate is that phylloxera only survives with difficulty, and many vines are ungrafted.

    Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape in Washington and Cabernet Sauvignon is also very popular. The area has also had considerable success with Merlot, and Syrah is the varietal that is most rapidly increasing in acreage.

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  • Oregon has a completely different climate for grape growing and a completely different identity as a wine producing region. Here the vineyards are planted on the western side of the Cascades and the climate is rainy and heavily influenced by the Pacific Ocean. It is cooler than California, but warmer than Washington's Columbia Valley.

    While Washington wine production is dominated by big producers, production in Oregon takes place on a much smaller scale. Here there are only 10,000 acres planted to vines, and Pinot Noir makes up 40% of the state's production, 50% of which is in the Willamette Valley. The Willamette Valley, stretching south from Portland, is the main producing region, followed by the Umpaqua Valley to the south and the Rogue Valley just north of the California state line.

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  • Not as well known nationally, New York is the fourth largest wine producing state after California, Washington and Oregon. The state has a long history of viticulture, but many of the grapes were of the native North American lambrusca species, producing inferior wine. Vinifera (that group of vines originating from Europe) plantings are increasing as lambrusca continues to decline and quality is improving with every vintage.

    Wine is produced on Long Island's two AVAs, North Fork and The Hamptons, in the Finger Lakes region and in the Hudson River Valley. Merlot and Chardonnay are the specialties on Long Island, the Finger Lakes are best known for their Rieslings which are garnering increasing acclaim. In recent years, Cabernet Franc has shown good results from both Long Island and the Finger Lakes. The Niagara Peninsula east of the Finger Lakes in Canada is also developing a reputation for its wine production. Some of the vineyard area is devoted to hybrids like Seyval Blanc, but some interesting ice wine is produced from Riesling and other grapes.

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  • Wine is also produced throughout the southwest, in states such as Texas, now the fifth largest wine producing state, after California, Washington, Oregon and New York, New Mexico and Arizona. Wine is also produced in Mexico, where the industry began in the 1500s, introduced by the Spanish conquistadors. Today most of the Mexican wine exported comes from the Guadalupe Valley in Baja California.

    By 2008, a report in Time magazine trumpeted the fact that grapes for table wine were now being grown and vinified in all 50 states -- proof positive that the United States of America has emerged as a world leader in the production and enjoyment of table wine.

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