Fri, Oct 7, 2011 08:59 AM
The bulk of wine produced in the US comes from California, with
Oregon closing in second. The California sunshine intensifies the
sugar content of the grapes, so the wines tend to higher in alcohol
and usually richer and bolder in taste. American wines are usually
strictly separated by grape type, with Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot
Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay the most popular. "Cab."s are
typically full-bodied, high in tannins, robust with currant and
berry aromas; Merlot appears more feminine, softer with plum
aromas, Pinot Noir tends to be lighter with earthier notes,
Sauvignon Blanc has more of a typical floral acidity and Chardonnay
is usually richer with tropical and stone fruit flavors, often
oaked and/or displaying a buttery taste created by 'malolactic
Then there is Zinfandel, spicy, peppery, full-bodied. It is the
original American grape (although rumor has it derived from the
Italian grape Primitivo) and it is a perfect match for American BBQ
grilled hot dogs, ribs, burgers and steaks, even chicken, but keep
it away from cream sauces or seafood.
Oregon with its colder climate produces some world class Pinot
Noirs, especially in the Willamette Valley, somewhat similar to
Burgundies, but a little cleaner in taste and richer in body,
pairing well with meat, game, even salmon. Also Pinot Gris does
well in the Pacific Northwest, and exhibits much of the same
characteristics as Pinot Grigio from northern Italy.
Particular mention should go to vineyards from Carneros just south
of Napa, as the particular microclimate is well suited for Pinot
Noir and Chardonnay; look for Schug vineyards for a great example
of Burgundy-style wine. German-born Walter Schug (pronounced
'Shoog') learned the winemaking trade there in the seventies before
settling down in Carneros.
There are plenty of other wine growing areas starting with
Washington State up north all the way down to Santa Barbara County
down in southern California, each with it's own distinct qualities
and affinities to certain grapes. Washington State has made itself
a name for great Merlots, Mendocino is known for organic and
biodynamic practices, Lodi for big 'juicy' Zinfandels, Paso Robles
for big rich Cabernet Sauvignon and the colder east-west valleys of
Santa Barbara County again for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Plenty to discover, plenty to experiment, just take a look at the
wine label and take note where your wine comes from. You will find
your own favorites pretty fast.