American wine isn’t all about California
The Golden State accounts for four out of every five bottles of wine that comes out of the US – but that doesn't always make it the best
Forge Cellars Dry Riesling Finger Lakes, New York, USA 2018 (£24.99, or £17.99 as part of a mixed case of six bottles, majestic.co.uk) When people talk about wine from the United States, what they generally mean is wine from California. And given that the Golden State accounts for some 81% of all US wine production (which, incidentally, makes it the fourth-largest wine producer in the world after Italy, France and Spain), that's not at all surprising. But wine is made in every state in the union, and there is much of interest to be found there, especially in the four states (Washington State, Oregon, New York state and Virginia) which account for the lion's share of the fifth of US production not taken up by California. The wines of New York State, for example, could not be more different from their peers on the other side of the continent, with Forge Cellars’ startling dry riesling, with its flash of fine-steel-blade acidity and burst of apple and pear, one of the best versions of this variety you’ll find anywhere.
Domaine Drouhin Arthur Chardonnay Dundee Hills Willamette Valley 2020 (£27, hic-winemerchants.com) With its long, cold winters, and short summers, The Finger Lakes region is very much a cool-climate zone, with the moderating effect of the titular lakes the crucial factor in making wine production viable at all. Seneca Lake seems to be a particularly good site, home to both the Forge Cellars Riesling and another of my favourite New York Rieslings, made by Hermann J Wiener. Forge is also notable for being the work of a leading French winemaker, the Rhône Valley maestro Louis Barruol, which links it to one of my favourite wines from a recent tasting of Chardonnays from another exciting US winemaking state, Oregon. Made by the US outpost of one of Burgundy's most famous names, the Drouhin family, who started out in the maritime climate of the Pacific NorthWest in the 1980s, the stylish, creamy, luminous and perfectly balanced Arthur Chardonnay is a stylistic cousin to the great Chardonnays the Drouhins make back home.
Marietta California OVR Lot #72, California, USA NV (£15, robersonwine.com) Before I get accused of being hopelessly Eurocentric, I should point out that the vast majority of my favourite US wines are not made by European winemakers – although of course the influence of French (but also Italian, German, and Spanish) wine culture is strong in the US as it is all over the so-called New World. Staying in the Pacific NorthWest, but further north in the near-desert conditions across the Cascade Mountains from Seattle in Eastern Washington State, Powers Cabernet Sauvignon Champoux Vineyard 2016 (£24.50, amathusdrinks.com; virginwines.co.uk) is a suave, softly mature, but still brightly cassis-fruited Bordeaux-esque red from a local farming family who have done much to shape Washington's reputation as a rival to California for lush Cabernet-based red wines. Also made by a local family firm, this time based in California's Sonoma and Mendocino districts, Marietta's blend of old-vine carignan, zinfandel and petite sirah is berry-juicy and subtly pepper-spicy and one of the state's – and country's - best-value reds.
Follow David Williams on Twitter @DaveydaibachForge Cellars Dry Riesling Finger Lakes, New York, USA 2018 (£24.99, or £17.99 as part of a mixed case of six bottles, majestic.co.uk) Domaine Drouhin Arthur Chardonnay Dundee Hills Willamette Valley 2020 (£27, hic-winemerchants.com) Marietta California OVR Lot #72, California, USA NV (£15, robersonwine.com)