Try Regional Wines Made In America For An Exceptional Value
In the past few years, we have tasted and rated many regional wines from America. The best wines tell a compelling story, even if they are not from the West Coast. They are enjoyable to drink. Many offer exceptional value.
It can be an exciting adventure to find them. Some are as rare as they are sophisticated because production can be just a few hundred cases. They are rare and rarely distributed, so it is essential to interact with producers to obtain them. This is often where the real adventure begins. Often, it’s in remote tasting rooms that do not offer warm welcomes.
Wines tell a story of fruit and terroir. They also show how growers and producers combine technical skill, passion, patience, and skill with a wide range of varietals grown in almost any soil type and many microclimates.
The summary is here. It covers the Great Lakes, Northern New York, the Eastern seaboard, Texas, the Southwest, the Rockies, Idaho, and the Southwest. America’s top wine producers are constantly improving. As a result, the world’s best wines are top-quality. Although we haven’t yet found any wines with 98-100 points, the trend is moving in that direction.
In the eastern United States, Cabernet Franc is the king of reds. However, bold western producers are producing beautiful wines at high altitudes from various Spanish and Italian varieties. The future looks bright for Michigan and New York Finger Lakes with their racy rieslings and elegant bubblies. Even better, the vines are showing more of America’s terroirs as they age. Take a sip, and you’ll see!
Interested? Continue reading.
It is not surprising that high-quality wines from regional areas are now more widely available. This is due to the growing awareness of terroir in winemaking and the importance of choosing the right varieties.
This is something you can learn in any winemaking course. But, it is impossible to replace decades of careful observation, patient observation, and experience.
We believe in a critical mass of understanding in many “new” wine regions in America. (Let’s not forget the story of the massive, continent-spanning American wine industry that Prohibition decimated in 1919.
Jim Law, who founded Virginia’s Linden Vineyards in Front Royal nearly 40 years ago, is the best person to explain this. It takes time to get to know a virgin terroir. “A lifetime is only the beginning.” We love Law’s sauvignon blancs and chardonnays. They were produced in dry, cool 2017 conditions and gave rise to exceptional finesse and tension wines.
Law is a respected mentor to many generations of Virginia winemakers and a firm believer in the importance of aging his vines. They sit on the remains from ancient volcanoes, where the soil type can differ even within half an acre.
“Wine changes according to the vine. At Avenius and Boisseau vineyards, the have vines have an average of 24 years. They start to regulate and calm down by this point. It becomes less about the varietal and more about the terroir asserting its self.”
Fall Creeks Vineyard, a top Texas producer, is located over 1,200 miles away in the Texas Hill Country is all terroir. They were pioneers of Texas viticulture and had been patiently exploring their locations for more than 40 years. Sergio Cuadra, a winemaker, said that they were convinced, for example, that the Salt Lick vineyard’s tempranillo is growing each year as consistently and uniformly as possible, with almost no regard to weather changes. It is easy to see that the vines are at home there. Therefore, it is not necessary to intervene.”
The 2017 Ex Terra tempranillo is rich, complex, and full-bodied. It will be an excellent choice for wine lovers who want to enjoy great wine for many years.
The real fun begins further west in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. Producers now focus on these soils, climates, and grape types that produce exceptional wines in dry climates.
The Varietal Adventure
Fine wine production took 40 years to truly become rooted in “regional” producers inhabiting the states beyond the West Coast. It was a steep learning curve, starting with technique and then terroir, before finally filling with varieties.
Certain regions are increasingly associated with grape varieties that produce exceptional wines in their diverse soils and climates. The Finger Lakes is home to great riesling, with top producers such as Empire Estate, Hermann J. Wiemer, and Red Newt making consistently excellent wines. We have talked about them for years. Michigan is becoming an excellent source for excellent riesling (and conventional-method sparklers). Below are the wines that we have just tasted in Aurora.
Red Bordeaux varieties flourish in the East, notwithstanding earlier doubts. Virginia’s RdV Vineyards on a granitic hill 60 miles west of Washington DC. Their 96-point 2016 “Rendezvous” is a spectacular example. It is a blend of cabernet sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with a bit of Petit Verdot. This wine is a wonderful world wine because of its beautiful fruit, rich tannins, intensity, and length.
Other Meritage wines in New Jersey, Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, and New York’s Long Island point to these varieties’ current quality and greater future potential in new homelands. The BDX 2017 was a great choice from William Heritage, a New Jersey producer who is a strong and reliable one. This blend of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet Franc is light and fresh with vibrant red fruits.
Cabernet Franc is, without doubt, a star among reds in the east, including New York Finger Lakes and Michigan. It is a reliable ripener in multiple terroirs and can produce classic wines in many styles.
One new single-vineyard launch from Barboursville Vineyards is the best we’ve tasted. It’s located just north of Charlottesville in Virginia. The Goodlow Mountain 2017 is full-bodied and well integrated. The elegance and age-worthiness of the wine are underlined by its beautiful tannins and intense, subtle fruit with stunning minerality. Several medium-sized producers from the east, including Virginia’s fantastic Early Mountain estate, recently took advantage of exceptional terroirs and great growing years to produce beautiful single-site bottlings alongside regular releases. It is a great approach to follow.
Experience is the key. Barboursville has been cultivating francs since 1977. Winemaker Luca Paschina said: “It was a difficult decision. We had been noticing over many years different results coming from franc grown at various locations. We knew it was the right time to do barrel tastings of the unblended 2017 vintage with Francesco Zonin, our owner.
Roanoke Vineyards, Long Island 2015 cabernet Franc “The Hill” was another favorite when we tried it recently. The wine’s complex spice, floral, and dark cherry characters gave it exceptional poise.
North Carolina has many distinct varietal options. Jay Raffaldini discovered a terroir at 1,200 feet near the Yadkin River suited for the central and southern Italian varietals he loves, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, and Sagrantino. His big, earthy wines are a favorite of ours. Raffaldini says, “It wasn’t following the path that was least restrictive that got us to where we are now. It was a lot more experimentation and taking risks. It is about the site and the technique. After an appassimento drying, we discovered that co-fermenting Montepulciano with Sagrantino created the strong yet balanced wine that would become our flagship, Grande Riserva.
There is something new and exciting happening in some parts of the west. It all starts in the high deserts of southern (and northern) Arizona. Callaghan Vineyards, a pioneering estate, initially tried Bordeaux varieties. Then, they began to experiment with a mix of Spanish, Italian, and French varieties and many other local producers.
They are creating delicious and seductive blends such as Callaghan’s 2017 Claire (Mourvedre and Graciano), Sand Reckoner’s stunning layered 2016 “X” (petit Verdot and cabernet franc and tempranillo), and Dos Cabezas’ full 2016 Toscano (mostly Aglianico, and Sangiovese). Sometimes you will feel the sagebrush in Arizona wines.
Wine is still exciting as you travel north to Colorado’s Grand Valley at high altitude. Colterris’ 2016 Riverside vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and other estate-grown products shows, Bordeaux wine rage can stand tall. You can even get delicious reds in cans!
What’s Next For US Regional Wines?
Is there a new wine region that is going to be a great success? It’s tempting, looking at the variety and quality of wine across the country, to say “everywhere.” But I believe it comes down to the people.
Michele Padberg is a young producer who can make a difference in a state. Vivac produces some of the finest refosco I have ever had, even in Friuli. The fruit is grown at almost 5,000 feet in southern New Mexico by a friulano, to whom the Padbergs feel a close connection in spirit and philosophy. It is one of their most popular products.
She and Jesse are advocates for New Mexico marketing and promotion. This is especially important considering that the state’s development is slower than those of neighboring states. She is enthusiastic about working with colleagues at the state university’s Viticulture School to bring industry experts and leaders to improve wine quality.
“We are never satisfied with what we have. Every vintage, we think about what we can do better. We experiment, we research. As a result, new Mexico is moving quickly to become a world-class growing region. This is fitting for one of the oldest wine-growing regions in America. It has it all: a variety of microclimates and low moisture levels that favor low-input wine-growing.
You find that passion for the place all over Wine America. Virginia winemaker Michael Shaps, a Meursault Vigneron, is particularly enthusiastic about the Shenandoah Valley’s under-recognized potential. He also produces wine under the Michael Shaps brand and for other wineries in the state. “Wines from Shenandoah are not well-known, despite their high-quality winemaking. Some areas are blessed with some of the driest conditions on the east coast. Many white grapes can take advantage of the limestone, loam, and clay soils.
Ron Bitner has been making wine in Idaho’s high, dry Snake River Valley for 40+ years. He sees a promising transition as an older generation of winemakers gives way to a more formalized generation of enologists. He is particularly optimistic about Idaho. “We make quality wines every year because we have great hang time that allows the grapes to produce great fruit-forward flavors with well-balanced acids.”
Bitner holds a Ph.D. in Entomology and owns the only Idaho vineyards LIVE (Low Input Vineyards and Enology). He is also part of a growing group of winemakers who are philosophically attuned to this approach. His Terrosa-syrah-driven blend is a favorite of ours. The 2015 vintage is full of beautiful fruit and verve.
There is evidence that American regional wines have been on the rise. We hope that you will look for them. They are a symbol of vision, hard work, and good drinking. Each bottle represents the American Dream. That is why we continue to follow and taste the American Wine Revolution.