Compared to European countries, the United States does not have a very long tradition of winemaking. What many might be surprised to learn, however, is that wine was actually made here in the US as early a the 1600s. Most of these early vineyards were planted in New York, Virginia, Michigan, and even Ohio (a fact which makes Ohio ever so slightly more exciting). Many of the indigenous grape varieties that existed in North America were not necessarily making the best wine so of course settlers tried to plant vinifera grape varietals from Europe. While those were suffering at the hands of phylloxera they were able to create hybrids from local varieties and the vinifera varieties. Nothing came easy in colonial America, apparently.
The American wine producing super power, California, that we all know and love today did not become a player in the wine scene until the 1830s, when the Gold Rush brought more and more people out there, and they discovered that the climate was far more ideal for grape growing than Ohio. Here we are, almost 200 years later, and California wines now account for more than 60% of wine sales in the US. Let us not diminish the other wine producing states in North America, Oregon is very well known for their Pinot Noir, Washington state is the second largest premium wine producer in the states, just about every state produces wine in some capacity these days.
- N.V. Roederer Estate Brut, Anderson Valley, California- This is a champagne style sparking wine, meaning it is made in the same way as normal champagne is made, but it’s not from Champagne. It is a pale, clear straw yellow color with lots of small bubbles. It is semi-aromatic with notes of citrus, toast, dried apricot, and a bit of yeastiness from the fermentation process. It is quite dry and also has a fairly high sour acidity. In the mouth the citrus comes out much more with a rather lemony expression, along with some tart green apple.
- 2014 Morgan Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, California- it is a clear, medium yellow color, boarding on deep yellow, and much more aromatic than the last wine. You get some ripe pear as well as many indicators that this Chardonnay has been oak aged, like toast, vanilla, and a kind of buttery popcorn smell. It is dry and has pretty low acidity. The toast, vanilla, and buttery popcorn come through in the mouth just like in the nose, which is typical of a California Chardonnay. They usually always age them in oak barrels, where a lot of other Chardonnay producing regions shy away from oak aging because it does cover up a lot of the Chardonnay’s natural flavors.
- 2014 Cambria “Benchbreak” Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, California- Even though Oregon is famous for their Pinot Noris, California makes them, too. This one is a pale ruby shade, with a more pink color out towards the rim of the glass. Semi-aromatic with red fruits like cherry and raspberry on the nose, along with some spice and a bit of earth. It is dry and does have a decent amount of acidity, with a bit of tannin. It is much more fruity than many other Pinot Noir’s I have had, with a juicy quality that really brings out the cherry and raspberry flavors, but there are some more mineral flavors that come out as well. As is typical for Pinot Noir, it is on the lighter side.
- 2012 Atalon Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California- Napa Cabs are among some of the more desirable wines for consumers, they are pretty intense and very dark in color due to the small size of the individual grapes. This wine is a very deep ruby/purple color. It is rather aromatic with dark fruits like blackberry and black currant as well as some leathery notes, coffee grounds, and a hint of green pepper. It is dry and very astringent. The mouth has a bit more of a dark chocolate flavor than in the nose, and you notice more of the oak. Other than that it is a very bold wine that would be good with a steak dinner.
- 2015 Dry Creek Vineyard “Heritage Vines” Zinfandel, Sonoma County- This wine is a very intensely dark purely color, and quite aromatic. It is very fruity with ripe cherry, strawberry, and raspberry flavors as well as some dried fruit and oak. There is even a hint of smokiness. It is dry, but because it is so fruity it almost tastes as though there is a hing of sweetness, which is balanced by the tannins. In the mouth the fruits really come out and are quite juicy.
- 2014 Boundary Breaks Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes New York- Despite being from a region that we may not think of as being a typical Riesling producing region, this one is a really good example. It is a clear, pale greenish color, semi-aromatic with notes of lime apple, pear, petrol, and white floral scents. It is dry, with a slight hint of sweetness, and has very high acidity, which is typical. In the mouth you get ore fruit flavors than in the nose, the apple and pear come out as well as some honeydew notes.
- 2015 Adelsheim Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon- Done in the French style, this Pinot Gris is a pale green/straw yellow wine and quite aromatic with more fruity notes of melon, peach, pear, as well as floral notes and a hint of yeast. It is dry and has a bit of sour acidity to it. In the mouth you still get the fruity flavors that were in the nose, with the addition of a more citrus profile.
- 2014 Ayres Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon- Oregon is best known for their Pinot Noir, at a more affordable price than Burgundy. This one is a medium ruby hue and semi-aromatic with dark berry as well as some vegetal notes. It is dry and has a good bit of sour acidity, as is typical of this grape. In the mouth it has more of the berry flavors, is light and smooth with a medium length finish.
- 2013 Canoe Ridge Merlot “The Expedition” Horse Heaven Hills, Washington- A pretty typical Merlot with medium garnet color and a semi-aromatic scent of dark fruits like black currant as well as some green bell pepper, earth, and spice. There may be a hint of sweetness to this wine but it is balanced by the tannins. In the mouth you get notes of brown sugar, maple, and caramel. It is a medium bodied wine with a less-long-than-desired finish.