Thanksgiving is the distinctively American holiday and we are happy to share the idea of a day of appreciation with other nations. A festive meal is generally part of the Turkey Day plan and so the question always comes up, what wines should we serve?
America: Beyond the Usual Suspects
There are many good choices depending upon the components of the meal, but we tend to lean towards American wines here at The Wine Economist office. And as Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy’s recent book American Wine reminds us, we do not need to limit our choices to wine from the “usual suspect” states and regions. While most of America’s wines are produced in California, most of America’s wineries (by a small majority) are in other states!
Wines & Vines reports that the United States boasted more than 7400 wineries in 2012 and of those about 3500 were located in California. The Californians made a vast majority of the wines measured in either value or volume, but there are active wineries in all of the states and so lots and lots of “local wines” for anyone wanting to support the local industry.
Most of us have tasted wines from California, Washington and Oregon and while some wines are surely better than others, it is clear that the best are world class products. Perhaps fewer have sampled wines from further down the list: New York, BC, Virginia, Texas and so on. What is the state of the art of wine in these states and regions?
Well, I have tasted many New York, Ontario, B.C. and Michigan wines at Riesling Rendezvous and other tastings and I can attest to the high quality of the best wines. Idaho with 50 wineries doesn’t make this list, but we tasted many outstanding wines when we visited there in October.
An opportunity to sample the wines of Missouri, for example, or Oklahoma does not frequently present itself. Most of the wineries are small and rely mainly upon cellar door sales. Very few make it into the broader distribution channels. It is a rare treat to be able to taste them.
Great American Wine Festival
Which is why we motored down to Portland recently to join the fun at the Great American Wine Festival, an event organized to coincide with a wine tourism conference. I’ll paste a list of the wine regions represented and the specific wines that they poured at the bottom of this column.
The event presented a cross section of American wine ranging from regions with high name recognition (Sonoma County, Santa Barbara) to others that would be better known to wine historians than to contemporary wine consumers (Maryland, for example, plus Virginia and Missouri).
How were the wines? Well, first a couple of caveats. No one is going to send a bad wine to an event like this even if some questionable wines are made. And I might have cheated a little bit — there were too many wines to taste them all so I let the winery recommendations from Jancis’ and Linda’s book steer me to particular labels in many cases.
And as with any tasting, we liked some of the wines better than others. But I would say that overall the quality of the wines we tasted was impressive and they can make us proud of American wine. There was something to enjoy at each table and several of the wines really surprised and delighted us.
Choose well, Americans, and your local wine (or in any case an American wine) will be the highlight of your Thanksgiving table — something we all can give thanks for!
Thanksgiving update: Our wines were
Appetizers: NV Domaine Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Brut sparkling wine
Turkey dinner: 2006 Boedecker Cellars “Stewart” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Here is a list of wines presented by the regional wine groups present at the Great American festival. Click here to see all of the participants, including individual winery representatives not on the list below. Thanks to the Great American Wine Festival for their hospitality and to everyone we met at the tasting. Keep up the great work!
Boulder Creek: 2011 Cabernet Franc
Canyon Wind Cellars: 2012 Anemoi Apeilotes
Carlson Vineyards: 2012 Cougar Run Dry Gewürztraminer
Colorado West: 2012 Elks Gewürztraminer
Ruby Trust Cellars: 2011 Gunslinger
COLUMBIA GORGE WINEGROWERS ASSOCIATION
Cathedral Ridge Winery: 2010 Cabernet Reserve
Cathedral Ridge Winery: 2012 Riesling
Jacob Williams Winery: 2012 Chardonnay
Jacob Williams Winery: 2009 Syrah
Memaloose Winery: 2011 Cabernet Franc
Memaloose Winery: 2012 Trevitt’s White
IDAHO WINE COMMISSION
Cinder Wines: 2012 Dry Viognier
Clearwater Canyon Cellars: 2009 Renaissance Red
Koenig Vineyards: 2010 Syrah
Ste. Chapelle: Soft Huckleberry
Livermore Valley Wine Country
Concannon Vineyard: 2010 Conservancy, Cabernet Sauvignon
Garre Vineyard & Winery: 2009 Primitivo
John Evan Cellars: 2010 The Paracelcian, Cabernet Sauvignon
Las Positas Vineyards: 2009 Casa de Vinas, Cabernet Sauvignon
Little Valley Winery: 2010 Tempranillo
Longevity Wines: 2012 Livermore Valley, Chardonnay
McGrail Vineyards & Winery: 2010 McGrail Reserve,Cabernet Sauvignon
Murrieta’s Well: 2012 The Whip, White Blend
Nottingham Cellars: 2011 Casa de Vinas, Petite Sirah
Retzlaff Estate Winery: 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
Tamas Estates: 2010 Double Decker Red (blend)
Wente Family Estates: 2012 Morning Fog, Chardonnay
Basignani: 2007 Lorenzino Reserve, Cab Sauvignon, Cab Franc
Big Cork Vineyards: 2012 Chardonnay
Big Cork Vineyards: 2012 Late Harvest Vidal
Boordy Vineyards: 2012 Dry Rose, Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, Syrah & Petit Verdot
Boordy Vineyards: 2010 Cabernet Franc, Reserve, Eastern grown Cabernet Franc
Crow Vineyard and Winery: 2012 Barbera Rose, Barbera, Vidal
Elk Run: 2011 Syrah
Knob Hall Winery: 2012 Willow, Traminette, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Vidal Blanc
Knob Hall Winery: 2011 White Oak, Chardonnay, Traminette, Vidal
Old Westminster Winery: 2012 Chardonnay
Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard: 2010 EVOE!, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cab Sauvignon
2011 Columbia Valley Viognier
Hermanhoff Winery: 2010 Vidal
Les Bourgeois Winery: 2011 Premium Claret
Montelle Winery: 2012 Chambourcin
Montelle Winery: 2012 Dry Vignoles
St. James Winery: 2009 Norton
St. James Winery: 2012 State Park Seyval Blanc
Stone Hill Winery: 2012 Chardonel
Stone Hill Winery: 2011 Chambourcin
OKLAHOMA GRAPE GROWERS & WINEMAKERS ASSOCIATION
Chapel Creek Winery: 2012 Oklahoma Tempranillo
Chapel Creek Winery: 2011 Oklahoma Norton
Coquelicot Vineyard: 2010 Estate Sangiovese
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY VINTNERS’ ASSOCIATION
Dragonette Cellars: 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon
Dierberg/Star Lane: 2011 Dierberg Chardonnay
Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard: 2012 Fess Parker Santa Barbara County Chardonnay
Foxen Winery: 2012 Pinot Noir
Hitching Post: 2008 Hitching Post Pinot Noir Perfect Set Sta. Rita Hills
Lafond Winery: 2011 Pinot Noir AVA Sta. Rita Hills
Lucas & Lewellen: 2008 Cabernet Franc
Refugio Ranch Vineyards: 2010 Barbareno, Santa Ynez Valley – Syrah / Petite Sirah
Santa Barbara Winery: 2012 Chardonnay AVA SB County
SOUTHERN OREGON WINERY ASSOCIATION
Agate Ridge Vineyard Ledger-David Cellars
Cliff Creek Cellars Plaisance Ranch
Deer Creek Winery RoxyAnn Winery
Del Rio Vineyards & Winery Serra Vineyard
Devitt Winery TesoAria Vineyard & Winery
EdenVale Winery Trium Vineyard & Winery
Barboursville Vineyards: 2012 Viognier Reserve
Rappahannock Cellars: 2010 Meritage
Rappahannock Cellars: 2012 Viognier
Tarara Winery: 2012 Nevaeh Red
THE WINE ROAD NORTHERN SONOMA COUNTY
Alexander Valley Vineyards: – 2009 CYRUS
Alexander Valley Vineyards: 2010 Sin Zin
Silver Oak Cellars: 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Stonestreet Winery: 2011 Gravel Bench Chardonnay and Broken Road Chardonnay
Trione Vineyards and Winery: 2012 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Trione Vineyards and Winery: 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Twomey Cellars: 2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Very interesting information! I know that the wine is produced in all 50 states in US, but trying wine from all the states is nearly impossible. I live in CT, where at the most I can find wines from NY and CT, even that is not in every store (of course outside of CA, OR and WA wines). And I had no idea that Ohio has 140 wineries! Thanks for sharing all the info!
I am enjoying reading this book. It is slanted quite a bit to CA (makes sense) but has a good deal of information on our Midwest wine industry that uses French-American hybrid varietals as well as vinifera.
Disappointed that no MI wines made your list…why? MI does riesling and pinot blanc better than OR or CA. Hope you can correct this oversight in the future.
Michigan was not represented at the tasting, Dileep. It is their fault not time!
P.S. Just want to be clear that Dileep is talking about the Robinson-Murphy book American Wine.
Interesting…last time I checked BC and Ontario were provinces, not US states. That thing called the 49th parallel is actually an international border. And our thanksgiving falls in October. Just sayin’… 🙂
Ha ha! Yes, I suppose you are correct! The Wines & Vines table included Canadian provinces and since my Canadian friends like to remind me that they are also “Americans” and celebrate Thanksgiving (on the correct date, they insist), I thought I would be inclusive. Hope I didn’t offend you!
BTW since you are WineLlama, do yo perhaps spin some llama knitting wool? My wife Sue (who loves wine and knitting wool) would be very interested!
🙂 no….I don’t do wool. I do a lot of wine and spirits though – and I only spit if I have to 😉 Thank you for being inclusive – it was just so weird to see provinces included in that way! Cheers, Lindsay, aka winellama.com
Talk up the wines of Ontario all you want, Mike… but people in Ontario covet the wines of British Columbia… No idea why, actually, as our production falls far short of meeting local demand in BC. Roughly translated: There’s not enough (… volume being produced) quality wine in BC to satisfy British Columbia’s demands… Americans should be more focussed on Washington and Oregon, if they want the elegance of the high-toned wines of the Pacific Northwest…We here in BC would prefer to be off the map… 😀 … thank you very much :S