California may be the grande dame
of wine regions, but vineyards
across the United States are
producing vintages that have
oenophiles traveling far and wide.
We discover some of the finest…
FScott Fitzgerald set swathes of
The Great Gatsby—his classic 1920s
tale of life amid America’s superrich—
around the grand mansions of
Long Island, New York, playground of
the Vanderbilts, Astors, and Hearsts. But
while the glorious houses remain, the area
has found new renown for its vineyards.
California is the Goliath of American
wine-making, commanding around
80 percent of production and 90 percent
of exports. But as Goliath found out,
big doesn’t always mean best, and some
of the finest contemporary wines come
from the dozen other states that breach
the 100-plus winery mark.
Discerning wine lovers may know
of Oregon’s superb Pinot Noir, plus
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from
Washington State. But how about the
four centuries of wine-producing heritage
in Virginia, or the “Napa of the Midwest”
around Michigan’s Great Lakes?
Such American Viticulture Areas
(A.V.A.s) tick boxes associated with many
objects of desire. Limited supply confers a
sense of exclusivity, while off-radar status
brings a thrilling sense of discovery. That
said, states like Virginia actually began wine production
back in the 17th century, when early settlers including
Spanish missionaries planted imported European vines to
try and provide a taste of home—only to find their vines
destroyed by New World pests such as phylloxera.
Discovering native grapes resistant to these blights
transformed early U.S. wine production to such an extent,
however, that a Virginia wine made from the indigenous
Norton grape was named “best red wine of all nations” at
the Vienna World’s Fair in 1873.
NEW YORK, NEW WINES
The most elevated wines from America’s off-radar states riff
on classic European grapes. Leading Long Island producer
Paumanok is a case in point. “Our maritime cool climate
lets us produce wines with classical Old-World moderation
in alcohol,” says winemaker Kareem Massoud. “Their
aromatics are impressive and the typicity is evident.”
Paumanok’s Apollo Drive Petit Verdot was rated 92/100
by influential critic Robert Parker, while its Tuthills Lane
Cabernet Sauvignon scored 93. The 2010 Tuthills Lane
Merlot, meanwhile, is a current premium pick (for $205)
at top Manhattan restaurant Eleven Madison Park.
Another fine example, Red Hook Winery, can be found
on the wine lists of London restaurants such as Pétrus and
The Lanesborough alongside wines from the state’s other
great A.V.A., the stone-and-shale terroir of the Finger Lakes.
Words NORMAN MILLER
Illustration LUKE BROOKES