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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Conventional wisdom is that great wine must come from traditional wine-producing regions. Aside from grapes, the best fruits and vegetables—in the U.S., anyway—tend to come from surprisingly obscure areas. Can truly great grapes be grown in about any state, and is it just a matter of time before great wine is being produced in most states?
—Kevin, San Antonio
All 50 U.S. states hold bonded wineries, and some of the wines being produced in what you might consider obscure areas are already great. The major wine regions in the United States include established areas in California, Oregon, Washington and New York as well as emerging regions in Virginia, Arizona and Texas, among others. I’ve enjoyed wines from New Mexico, Ohio and Idaho. It’s certainly an emerging industry, and that’s good news for wine lovers.
It takes a while to figure out what grows well where. Unlike other crops, where seeds may be planted, grown, harvested and tilled over in one season, once grapevines are planted they stay in the ground for years, and that makes them susceptible to the weather practically year-round. Grapes also require a pretty long growing season, where the dangers of frost, sunburn, wind and rain threaten from the time of bud break until the grapes are ready for picking (and even afterward), which means a grower is looking for ideal weather for seven months or more.
There are also many variables to tinker with—not just the growing season, heat and humidity of a region, but the soil types, the wind and sun exposure and the drainage of a vineyard site. On the grape side, there are different varietals, rootstocks, clones and trellising practices that all need to be figured out. Then the variability of seasons will challenge all of those decisions. But when everything falls into place, and the right grape is grown on the right spot the right way and then made into the best wine it can be, that’s what we wine lovers get excited about.
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