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Understanding Varietals
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United States
Wine Regions
UNITED STATES
CALIFORNIA
Winegrowing began in California in 1769, six years before the revolutionary war. Wine is grown in every region of the state; California is now recognized as one of the foremost winegrowing regions in the world. Wine must be made from a minimum of 75% of a particular grape variety to carry the varietal name. White Wine Grapes- Chardonnay is the most widely planted variety in the state. They can range from clean and crisp to rich and complex oak-aged wines. Chenin Blanc is known for its ability to grow in warmer climates and produce light bodied wines. French Colombard is after Chardonnay, the most widely planted varietal in California. It is traditionally used in white wine blends. Gewurztraminer produces distinctive wines rich in spicy aromas and full flavors. Johannisberg Riesling wines are floral, with fruity, yet delicate flavors. Sauvignon Blanc is also known as Fume Blanc, and best known for its grassy, herbal flavors. Red Wine Grapes- Cabernet Sauvignon is prized for its depth of flavor and aromas and its ability to age. Merlot is a partner in blending with Cabernet as well as a popular varietal. Softer than Cabernet, Merlot usually requires less aging. Petit Sirah has firm, robust and peppery flavors. Pinot Noir is one of the most challenging winegrapes. It makes light to medium bodied wines; best in cool climates. Zinfandel is often thought to be the one true California native grape varietal. It is one of the most widely planted red grapes in the state. When there is a small amount of skin contact during fermentation the result is White Zinfandel, a fresh, slightly sweet wine.

Winegrapes are grown in 45 of California's 58 counties, from as far South as San Diego to near the Oregon border in the North. Covering over 407,000 acres of land with vineyards. The temperate climate zone and long coastline of the state, with its warm days and cool nights, make near perfect growing conditions for winegrapes. California's five wine regions- North Coast, Central Coast, South Coast, Central Valley and Sierra Foothills- are broken down into nearly 80 Approved Viticultural Areas(AVAs). The North Coast encompasses the winegrowing areas in Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Solano, and Sonoma counties. Accounting for less than a quarter of the state's total winegrape acreage, the North Coast region is home to most of California's over 800 wineries. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are grown in this area. From the San Francisco Bay in the North to Santa Barbara in the South, the Central Coast is a diverse winegrowing region. It includes the Livermore Valley, Santa Cruz County, Santa Clara County, the Monterey Bay area, San Louis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grow best in this cool area. The South Coast includes Riverside County's Temecula area and San Diego County's San Pasqual Valley. This moderately warm region is best for Zinfandel and Chardonnay. The Central Valley is really two valleys- the Sacramento Valley to the North and the San Joaquin Valley to the South with the Sacramento Delta in-between. The Central Valley is the most productive agricultural area in California. It is an excellent place to grow grapes with high yields, and as a region it accounts for over half of all wine produced in California. Over 30 wineries are in the Sierra Foothills and Zinfandel accounts for over half of all the vines in the region, with Chardonnay a distant second. This mountain climate, with its high altitudes and warm, dry summers produces wines with deep flavors and aromas.

Excerpted from Enjoying California Wines. For further information see the Wine Institute website.
For travel information about Napa or Sonoma, click on www.napavalley.com or www.sonoma.com.

NEW YORK STATE
New York is considered a cool climate viticultural region, as are the famous winegrowing areas of Burgundy, Champagne and Germany. Its wine regions are located comparable to Northern California and further South than Bordeaux, the states of Oregon and Washington and Champagne. These regions are ideally suited for the growing of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling and the rare Ice wines.

New York has 125 wineries, 106 established since 1976. It is either #2 or #3 wine producer, depending on the harvest size(Washington State claims the same honor). There are 4 regions: Long Island has 24 wineries planted in classic European varietals - Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Riesling. The climate is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound. The Finger Lakes have 58 wineries growing grapes for sparkling wine, Rieslings, Pinot Noir and Ice wine. Here the influences on climate are the Finger Lakes. The Hudson River has 28 wineries producing mostly white European and French-American varieties. The valley is a conduit of maritime weather generated by the Atlantic Ocean. The smallest wine growing region is Lake Erie with 8 wineries. Here Native and French- American varietals are influenced by the moderating effects of Lake Erie.

In New York varietal wines are made from the classic European(vinifera) varieties, from French-American varieties, and Native American(labrusca) varieties. Vitis Vinifera is the native species of Europe. They include Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc for whites and Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir for reds. French-American hybrids were developed to combine the taste characteristics of the European vinifera with the hardiness of the Native American species. They include: Vidal and Seyval Blanc for whites and Baco Noir for reds. Native American varieties are known as vitis labrusca. They formed the backbone of the early New York wine industry because of their resistance to disease and their winter hardiness. Most native varieties exhibit a pungent grapey quality. They include: Catawba and Niagara for whites and Concord for reds.

Excerpted from Wine Country Passport. For further information contact New York Wine & Grape Foundation at www.nywine.com.

OREGON
Oregon's long, warm summer days and a gently cooling autumn allow the grapes to ripen gradually, developing complex flavors. The grapes take on the qualities of Oregon's various micro-climates and soils. In 1977, Oregon winemakers developed the nation's highest labelling standards. All grapes must come from the stated area. Foreign regions such as Chablis or Champagne are not allowed. Blending of more than 5% from another vintage is prohibited. Wine must contain at least 90% of the stated variety. The current national standard is 75%, as is the exception for Cabernet Sauvignon.

Oregon has five recognized appellations. The Willamette Valley, Oregon's largest appellation; Umpqua Valley and Rogue Valley, west of the Cascade Mountain Range; and the Columbia Valley and Walla Walla appelations are shared with Washington State. The two most significant climactical and geographical factors are the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountain Range. The ocean provides much needed moisture and cooling winds. The Cascade Mountains, running north to south through Oregon, Washington and Canada dorm a barrier to the ocean's moisture. Grapes exposed to extreme heat do not develop as much flavor profiles as those which have ample sunlight during the day and cooler nights to moderate the growing process and allow for more gradual and complete ripening.

Major grape varietals include: Pinot Noir, the state's most planted variety. Oregon's cool climate represent the ideal region for growing this temperamental grape. Merlot is grown predominantly in the southern and eastern parts of the state. Zinfandel is found in the warmer regions. Cabernet Sauvignon is planted throughout the state. Chardonnay is Oregon's second most planted grape. The White Riesling character has benefited from the cooler fringes of Oregon's temperate grape growing zone. Pinot Gris has emerged as one of Oregon's major varieties. Other white varietals include: Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Blanc.

Excerpted from Vintage 2000.
For more information contact The Oregon Wine Advisory Board at www.oregonwine.org.
For travel information contact the Oregon Tourism Commission at www.traveloregon.com.

WASHINGTON STATE
Washington State has over 115 wineries in its four officially recognized viticultural appellations. They vary, year to year, as the second or third largest wine producer (with New York), way behind California. Three of the approved areas are in the warmer, drier Eastern portion of the state. Two of them, the Yahima Valley and the Walla Walla appellations, are located within the larger Columbia Valley appellation. The Puget Sound Appellation , around Seattle, offers a temperate climate that rarely suffers from prolonged freezing weather in the winter and often enjoys a long and warm summer growing season. It is perfect for early-ripening varieties Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Washington's largest viticultural region, the Columbia Valley extends from its Northernmost boundary South into Oregon and East along the Snake River to the Idaho border.

Grapes grown in Washington State include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah for reds; Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and White Riesling for whites.

For more information contact Washington Wine Commission at www.washingtonwine.org.

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