As America's love affair with wine continues to grow, the number of wineries across the country is multiplying rapidly.
As America's love affair with wine continues to grow, the number of wineries across the country is multiplying rapidly. Most wine drinkers are familiar with California (2,025 wineries), Washington (451), Oregon (295) and, to a lesser extent, New York (239) as the states producing most of the domestic wines sold nationally. However, wines are now made in all 50 states after a winery opened in 2002 in North Dakota. Formerly the only state without a winery, it now has two.
You'd be surprised at the growing number of wineries in other states: Virginia (140), Texas (136), Pennsylvania (115), Missouri (86) and North Carolina (74). Even Florida, which one might think of as too tropical for wine, has 46 wineries.
More surprising are Alaska (8), South Dakota (14) and even tiny Rhode Island (7). Sparsely populated Wyoming reportedly has three, although in a Time article by Joel Stein titled the "Fifty States of Wine," he described one as, "I think Dick Cheney got bitter and angry from drinking this wine." A humorous thought, but by no means representative of the evolving quality of wine produced in many states.
While a few wineries in the other 46 states sell nationally, distribution is usually limited. Small wineries typically sell their wines only in their tasting rooms or, occasionally, in local restaurants and stores.
Wine snobs, no doubt, scoff at the notion that wines made in states other than the Big Three are really drinkable. However, the reality is that an increasing number of wines from other states are earning respectable reputations for drinkability and value among open-minded wine consumers.
And for just plain-old, downright fun, few things are as entertaining as touring a winery during a weekend getaway or while on vacation. Visitors to Massachusetts can visit a number of wineries, including Chicama Vineyards on Martha's Vineyard or Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod, a winery in North Truro, near Provincetown. I recently tasted their 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay ($16). It's refreshingly crisp and enjoyable with deliciously subtle, fruit quality.
Rhode Island's Sakonnet Vineyards, close to Newport, the former oceanside playground of the New York rich, is popular for visitors to the city and has a very good reputation.
Based on positive experiences visiting New England wineries, I decided to check out wineries during visits to Florida and Virginia. I visited several and sampled their vino.
In Florida, I visited Keel and Curley Winery in Plant City, west of Orlando, and Strong Tower Vineyard & Winery in Spring Hill, slightly north of Tampa.
Offering a change of pace from the amusement park atmosphere of Orlando, Keel and Curley makes fruit wines primarily, but delightful ones at that. For $10, one can sample an array of blueberry (dry, semi-dry or sweet), strawberry riesling, mango citrus, or peach chardonnay wines ($12/bottle each). All were interesting.
As my first exposure to fruit wines, they were enjoyable. I'd heard they're healthy in moderation, and interestingly, the day after tasting these, I felt invigorated.
Strong Tower makes whites, reds, blush and blueberry wines, ranging from dry to sweeter. Owners Terry and Janis McKnight gave a delightful tour, demonstrated a notable passion for their winemaking, and were charming to sip wines and talk with. Strong Tower Pinot Noir ($19) tasted uniquely different from any other pinot, but I loved its cognac-like flavor.
Visiting Loudon County, Va., near Washington, D.C., I toured three wineries and also tasted respectable wines from Fabbioli Cellars and North Gate Vineyards.
The Boxwood Estate Winery (Middleburg, Va.) was the most serious about their wines, making impressive investments and commitments to marketing their appealing Boxwood and Topiary ($25) Bordeaux blends. The wines were tasty and well structured with the tannin to support some aging. A winery to watch.
Bluemont Vineyard (Bluemont, Va.) offers a fun, party-like, weekend tasting environment with its hillside chalet's open air decks, nice views and live bands. The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($21) was pretty smooth with nice acidity.
Sunset Hills vineyard (Purcellville, Va.) featured pleasant wines from noble grapes, such as merlot and chardonnay. My pick, the 2010 Viognier ($25), was delicious.
My brief visit led me to conclude Virginia is for wine lovers, too. Go there, and enjoy.
Mark P. Vincent is a Shrewsbury, Mass., resident who has a passion for wine. Contact him at email@example.com.