American wine has been produced for over 300 years. Today all fifty states produce it, with California leading the way making 89% of all US wine. There are many native grapes among which the famous vitis Labrusca but the most used are the European vitis Vinifera. The American appellation system in based on AVA (American Viticultural Area).
Oregon’s leading wine region is the Willamette Valley, recognized as one of the premier Pinot noir producing areas in the world along with other varieties such as Pinot gris, Pinot blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. The most recognized AVAs are, the Williamette Valley (Yamhill County), Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Gorge, Columbia Valley, Snake River Valley.
There are four major wine-growing regions, the Lake Erie AVA on the west, the Finger Lakes AVA, the Hudson River AVA and the Long Island AVA.
The Rain-Shadow effect of the Cascade Mountain range is extremely important for both the geography and the climate of Washington state, they divide the wet western wet part of the state to the drier in the east meanwhile descending into the Columbia River Basin. The Mountain range and the Columbia river creates perfect conditions for wine growing in the regions of Walla Walla Valley AVA, Yakima Valley AVA and the Columbia Valley AVA.
The ‘terroir‘ and climate in California varies a lot, the Pacific Ocean brings cold winds that generates a temperate climate and fog nearby, while mountain barriers like in Sonoma and Napa keeps the weather warm. There are more then 100 AVAs in California among which the famous Napa, Russian River Valley, Rutherford and Sonoma. The largest wine region is the Central Valley.
California wine regions are often divided into 4:
- North Coast – The North Coast AVA covers most of the region, but the most known are Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino AVAs.
- Central Coast – The most notable wine regions are Santa Clara Valley AVA, Santa Inez ValleyAVA, Edna Valley AVA, Livermore Valley AVA.
- South Coast – The most notable wine regions are Temecula Valley AVA, Ramona Valley AVA.
- Central Valley – The most important here is the Lodi AVA.
Many grape varieties are grown in California, but the most important are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Zinfandel.
Napa Valley AVA is considered one of the best growing wine regions in the world thanks to its climate and terroir. The most important AVAs of Napa are: Los Carneros, Howell Mountain, Stags Leap District, Mt.Veeder, Oakville, Rutherford, St.Helena.
Sonoma County has many American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) due to the wide variety of climate and soil where grapes grow well. The most important and recognized AVAs of Sonoma are: Alexander Valley AVA located along the Russian River, Bennet Valley AVA surrounded by the Sonoma Mountains, Chalk Hill AVA (Russian river Valley) unique for volcanic soil with chalky white ash, Dry Creek Valley AVA (Russian River Valley) named after the Dry Creek river, Los Carneros AVA goes along the hills of the Mayacamas Mountains, Russian River AVA characterized by the cooling fog coming from the Pacific Ocean, Sonoma Coast AVA known for its cool climate, Sonoma Valley AVA famous for its ‘terroir’ and the Sonoma Mountains protecting it from rainfalls.
The Mendocino Ridge AVA is coastal with cool climate and high altitude located in the Mendocino County. It goes from the Pacific Ocean inland to the Anderson Valley.
Other Important AVAs:
- The Sierra Foothills AVA
- The Central Coast AVA
- The Livermore Valley AVA
- Paso Robles Wine Country