I have visited all but three states (Maine, West Virginia and Arkansas), and have made sojourns to winery tasting room in a vast majority of the states I’ve visited. I seek out wineries like others seek out art galleries or museums or restaurants.
Today, wine is made in all 50 states — yes, including Alaska — although not every state is able to grow grapes that can be used for making wine. In those cases, the grape juice may shipped in from elsewhere, then fermented into wine. I’ve even encountered a few wineries that use juice from more than one state in putting together a cuvee. If you ever see the phrase “American Wine” on a label, that typically means it’s a multi-state cuvee.
Of America’s 50 states, about a half-dozen produce really good wine, while another 20 or so make decent wine. Not all of it is made from grapes, either. I’ll always remember a trip I took with my Mom to her home state of Vermont, where we visited a couple of wineries that made varietal bottlings of apple wine. The Granny Smith was really good.
Each year, more and more people open more and more wineries, and not just in the “usual places.” I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a list of my favorite wineries in six states that may not be the first that come to mind when you think of wine…
* Alaska — Bear Creek Winery, Homer.
Most of the wines are made from locally grown berries, and luxury lodging is available on site.
* Colorado — Colorado Honey Wines, Parker.
Never tried Mead? It’s the specialty of the house at this winery.
* Michigan — Warner Vineyards, Holland.
Holland is not just a country; it’s a small town in Michigan, brimming with Dutch charm. It’s also the home of the Warner Vineyards tasting room, where guests can enjoy a glass of wine or a flight from among 25 distinct bottlings. My favorite: the Warner Brut.
* Nevada — Pahrump Valley Winery, Pahrump.
Bill and Gretchen Loken might be considered Nevada’s wine ambassadors, as they work with growers around the state to make “real Nevada wine.” A visit to the winery is worth the hour-or-so drive from Las Vegas for its on-site Symphony’s Restaurant, which makes the best beef barley soup I have ever had.
* New Mexico — Gruet Winery, Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
All of Gruet’s fine sparkling wines are made from New Mexico-grown grapes.
* New York — Benmarl Vineyards, Marlboro.
The Empire State is home to distinct winegrowing regions, including Long Island, Hudson River, Champlain Valley of New York, Finger Lakes, Niagara Escarpment and Lake Erie. I’ve spent the most time in the Hudson River and Finger Lakes areas, and my favorite winery always will be Benmarl, even though it’s under different ownership today than it was when I visited many years ago. I come from the world of magazines, and Benmarl’s original owner, Mark Miller, was a former magazine illustrator. I will always cherish my autographed copy of his memoir, “Wine — A Gentleman’s Game,” which includes a number of his wonderful illustrations.