Throughout American history, immigrants came from all over the world, bringing the old world with them and blended it with the new. Nowhere is this unique blending more apparent than in the combinations of cultivated old world grapes with the wild varieties of the Americas.
Although none of North America’s wild grapes alone produce tasty wine, when mixed with the old varieties, they create something fantastic. Today American wines are on par with what you find in the wineries of Italy and France. Here are four essential destinations for tasting the best the United States has to offer.
Napa Valley, California
No United States wine tasting tour would be complete without a trip to Napa. Sure, it may be overrated but most wine lovers will admit that it lives up to the hype. There are several hundred wineries and you can find every type of wine imaginable. Napa Valley has been an important wine area since the early 19th century and many of the old wineries are still around. This region set the standard for all California wines.
Critics of Napa Valley who say that it’s overhyped point out that there’s not a distinct Napa taste. But others would say that this is the region’s strength. It has lots of great wines all in one place. The soil and climate are perfect for growing all kinds of grapes. It’s also close to other California wine areas that are worth a visit in their own right, such as San Francisco and Temecula Valley.
Niagara – The Napa of the North
The Niagara area of upstate New York and southern Ontario is called ‘The Napa of the North.’ It’s a great microclimate for grapes of all kinds. The area is full of wineries and each has its own unique brand.
The region is especially popular for its ice wine. First developed in Germany but started in the Niagara region at Inniskillen Wines in the early 1980s, it’s made from frozen grapes. Because they’re frozen, the grapes retain their highly concentrated sugar and don’t develop the acidity of regular wines, giving ice wine a sweet, fruity taste. Nearly every Niagara winery has its own ice wine.
Washington State Wine Country
The area of Washington State east of the Cascade Mountains has been the most promising up-and-coming wine region for many years. In the last ten years, there has been a 400% increase in the number of wineries and wine is the fastest growing agricultural sector in Washington State. It’s already the 2nd largest wine producing area in the country and now it’s gearing itself up for wine tourism in a big way.
Like the wine producing regions of Chile or South Africa, this part of Washington State is a small land area with lots of diversity in climate. This leads to the production of many diverse types of wine that have little in common with each other. Wine lovers who visit the area are often surprised at the variety of wineries that are just a stone’s throw from each other.
Hermann, Missouri – The Wine Heartland
The area around Hermann, Missouri, is excellent wine country with world class wineries right in the middle of the Midwest heartland. Nestled on the banks of the Missouri River, the town of Hermann was founded by German immigrants and it still retains its old world feel.
In the 1840s, self-taught scientist George Husmann created a hybrid of native wild grapes and cultivated grapes imported from Europe that could survive the hot, muggy Missouri summers. This unique hybrid produces a certain taste that you don’t find anywhere else. Many of the area’s wines are hybrids with French varieties such as Norton, a dry red wine similar to Cabernet Sauvignon with a little of the tanginess of a Zinfandel.
These are just four of the country’s best wine producing areas. By all means, don’t stop there. You’ll find wineries and vineyards tucked into any corner of the United States where grapes can grow, and all of them offer something new and different.