By Christina Loiacono
U.S. wine has come a long way since its first production in 1562 near Jacksonville, Florida and its commercial beginning in 1799 in Kentucky. As the country grew, more and more wineries popped up, but many years would pass before any would become successful.
Today, the U.S. is the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, containing wineries in each one of the 50 states. Yes, that’s correct—even in the cold of Alaska, on the remote island of Hawaii, and in the desert out west there are folks producing wine! With so many amazing American vineyards to choose from, what would you put on your bucket list?
I’ll give you a little jump-start: here’s mine!
1. Jacksonville, Florida
I’d want to go back to where it all started. Although no wine is produced in the city today (those first grapes didn’t work out), Jacksonville is still of great historic value to the dedicated oenophile. I would visit the Timucuan Preserve, which includes the Fort Caroline National Memorial, a monument to the French who settled there and produced that first wine.
Not only was Kentucky the first state to have a commercial vineyard, but over time it would also become home to many more wineries. Today, Kentucky boasts more than 60, ranking seventh among the states in wine production. I’d go to Lexington to hear some bluegrass music and get some horse racing history along with my wine!
3. San Diego, California
Since California is responsible for producing more than 80% of all U.S. wine, I have to give it some credit.
Why San Diego before Napa? Junípero Serra established the state’s first vineyard and winery near the city of San Diego. By the way, the Spanish missionary is not only famous for his wine—Serra is also famous for creating the first nine Spanish missions in the state, and there is a museum in Presidio Park in his honor.
I would not consider my wine tour of the US complete without hitting all of the extremes and, surprisingly, Alaska contains a handful of wineries. They are found mostly in the south between Anchorage and Kodiak. I’m a huge fan of blueberry wine and most (if not all) of Alaska’s wineries produce wines out of what they can grow locally, which is a variety of berries. In addition, Alaska is known for its mead (made from honey) and icewine (dessert wine made from grapes that have frozen on the vine), both of which are well worth a taste!
If I am going to include the frozen north, I have to include the other extreme on my list. Similar to Alaska, Hawaii makes much of its wine from non-traditional fruit. However, their fruits are quite different, and many Hawaiian wines include pineapple and guava blended with grapes! I’d like to visit both the Volcano Winery on the Big Island and Tedeschi Vineyards on Maui.
Just a little over an hour north of the metropolitan area of Phoenix lies the wine growing regions of Verde Valley and Sedona. If you’re not up for making the trek yourself (with my intentions to sample wine, I know I wouldn’t be…), there are several tour companies that depart from Phoenix that will take care of the transportation for you!
7. Long Island
It’s no secret that I’m a New York girl, and I have to give credit to my home state. I went to college on Long Island, and the North Fork has some excellent wineries. I’m a fan of Duck Walk Vineyards; however, Sannino’s Bella Vita Vineyard is also a crowd favorite! Similar to visiting the wineries of Arizona, travelers to New York City have easy access to these vineyards via a variety of local tour companies.
8. Napa Valley
Closing out my bucket list is Napa, California. The region is a world-class ecotourism destination that encompasses several hundred vineyards! It’s so tough to choose just one plan for Napa. but I would probably visit during one of the area’s many wine festivals in order to maximize my ability to sample!
Christina Loiacono is a travel enthusiast and contributor at http://blog.zerve.com. Outside of her work, she’s an amateur wine lover, constantly seeking to learn all she can about all things grape.