If California was a country it would be the world’s 4th largest wine producer. The state accounts for 85% of all the wine produced in the USA. Amazingly however there is in fact wine production of some sort (at least one winery) in all 50 states! California is the country’s most popular wine tourism destination, but Washington State and Oregon – and also Virginia – have much to offer.
California is the engine room of North American wine production and there are vineyards in many parts of the state. Famous regions from south to north starting from Los Angeles are – Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, Paso Robles, Monterey, Santa Cruz; and then north of San Francisco, Carneros, Sonoma Valley, Napa Valley, Mendocino. Distinctive terroirs are reflected in the AVA (Approved Viticultural Area) system. Next biggest producing states are Washington State, New York and Oregon. A special mention goes to Virginia where we have organised a fascinating wine and history tour.
All of the ‘international’ grape varieties are well represented, with Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon producing the most highly-prized wines with price tags to match. Other notable varieties are Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. Zinfandel, which originally came from Croatia, has become the country’s flagship grape and accounts for 11% of all plantings. There are also lots of hybrids (cross between a vitis vinifera and non-vitis vinifiera vine) for example Seyval Blanc and Chambourcin.
Climate and terroir varies enormously across the length and breadth of this huge country. Even in California, which is 1000 miles long from north to south, there is a huge variety of climate which allows grapes as diverse as Zinfandel, which likes hot, arid desert-like conditions to Pinot Noir which suits temperate, ocean-cooled land. A huge variety of terrains and soils, too many to mention!
Past Tours to the USA
Virginia is a wine destination unlike any other, with nearly 300 wineries and dozens of wine trails surrounded by lavish scenery, breathtaking views, quaint small towns and monumental historic sites. We tasted superb wines and gourmet food at artisanal wineries on the James River, picked our own pumpkins(!), explored the Berkeley Plantation and experienced Civil War reenactments at Colonial Williamsburg – something for everyone. But with wine varietals from Viognier and Cabernet Franc to Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Gros Manseng, and Merlot, Virginia isn’t just for lovers, it’s for wine-lovers!