California is responsible for most wine production in the United States — and it's no wonder, given the state’s huge range of growing conditions. Food-friendly wines abound, ranging from crisp and lively Rieslings and Chardonnays to bright, juicy Pinot Noirs and Merlots, and, of course, the classic big, rich Cabernet Sauvignons and Zinfandels that have made Napa Valley and Sonoma famous. Keep an eye out, too, for unique blends and sparklers, as well as impressive wines coming from regions like the Central Coast and Paso Robles.
Over the past 50 years, innovation from forward-thinking winemakers has energized Washington’s wine culture, which is now the No. 2 wine-producing state. Exceptional wines are made in 14 different American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), each with unique climate and geographical features. The state is carving a reputation for stylish wines made from Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah. Watch for well-known regions such as Walla Walla and Columbia Valley.
The cooler, ocean-influenced wine regions of Oregon are perfect for growing Pinot Noir. These elegant, stylish wines have become something of a signature for the state, especially those from the Willamette Valley, which lies on the same latitude as France’s Burgundy region. Other cool-climate grapes like Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris do very well, and this relatively young wine state is one to watch as the quality continues to rise, with wineries continuing to focus on defining and expressing their unique terroir.
It may come as a surprise to learn that wine is made practically across the entire state of New York, in four distinct regions. The best-known AVAs are Finger Lakes, located upstate, and Long Island, which also includes The Hamptons and North Fork AVAs. State-side Niagara Escarpment wineries share climatic affinities with Ontario’s own well-regarded wine region. Since the 1970s, plantings of European vinifera grapes — Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc — are pushing the quality envelope to new heights.