United States of America
Eastern United States
Climbing the Heights in Washington and Oregon
Apr 17 2002 - Tony Aspler
1999 Oregon Pinot Noir
Jan 22 2002 - Clive Coates MW
A Short History of Pierce's Disease - Part Two
Nov 29 2001 - Bruce Cass
Sonoma County: What is it? - Part Two
Oct 18 2001 - Dan Berger
Lenz - The Pomerol of Peconic? - Part Two
Oct 17 2001 - Nicolas Belfrage MW
Beringer Blass acquires Etude
Sep 21 2001 - James Halliday
Wine.com's one million bottles to be auctioned
Sep 12 2001 - James Halliday
Look out California, here comes Michigan
Sep 05 2001 - Bob Thompson
Flying wine awards
Aug 10 2001 - Winepros
Dr Richard Smart to teach in California
Jul 13 2001 - James Halliday
Ravenswood Canberra District Marsanne 2004
Ravenswood Canberra District Sangiovese 2004
DeLoach Vineyards Chardonnay 1997
Cline 'Ancient Vines' Zinfandel 1995
Buena Vista, Carneros Cabernet Sauvignon 1995
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Now the fourth-largest wine producer worldwide, America's impact upon the vine has loomed large. Phylloxera, Prohibition, the University of California at Davis and American scientific and economic clout have shaped the American and the international wine industries.
Grapevines were so abundant in the wilds of North America that explorer Leif Ericson called it "Vineland." Early European settlers celebrated this abundance, though they were dismayed that the native varieties produced wine with an unpleasant "foxy" characteristic. Grapevines traveled back and forth across the Atlantic. In the late 1800s the great regions of Europe were decimated by the root louse phylloxera--a native of North American soils, taken to Europe via cuttings. Although native American vines are resistant to the louse, the pest infested European vineyards. America, though, while being the source of the devastation was also the source of the cure in the form of resistant rootstock for grafting. California dominates the American wine industry and the ascendancy of the vine in the United States is directly linked to California's history. Early colonists soon turned from native varieties to imported grape varieties and winemaking expertise from Europe for their wine needs. Repeated attempts to establish the European vine on the east coast failed, despite heroic attempts by the likes of Thomas Jefferson. Fungal diseases and phylloxera proved insurmountable until as recently as 40 years ago.
Christianity was significant in establishing viticulture in California, New Mexico and Texas, all under Spanish control. In 1769, Father Juniperro Serra founded the first of 21 California missions in San Diego along the El Camino Real (Royal Highway) up the coast. By 1823 these had reached Sonoma County at Solano. The missions were secularized in 1833 by the Mexican government and the Solano vineyard fell into the hands of General Vallejo, who became a prominent grower in Sonoma County. A small-scale industry evolved, particularly in the Los Angeles region, where vines were irrigated from the Los Angeles River.
Production in Ohio reached its peak in the 1850s. A challenging climate, industrial expansion and the rise of California served to stem production in eastern regions. In 1848 a goldrush began and saw California's population swell thirty-fold. Viticulture and winemaking boomed to satisfy an expanding and thirsty population. The mission grape dominated the state's viticulture, producing better sweet wine and brandy than table wine.
European varieties were imported as early as 1833 when Jean Louis Vignes, a French cooper, brought in non-mission vines. Others followed and Vitis vinifera varieties were planted during the next two decades. There is a misconception that Sonoma producer Agoston Haraszthy--"father of California viticulture"--was the source of new varieties. In 1861, when Haraszthy traveled to Europe in search of cuttings, new varieties had already been in California for three decades.
During the 1880s, the University of California, with Professor Eugene W. Hilgard, was the guiding light. By 1880, zinfandel, which probably arrived between 1852-1855, was the first choice of quality-minded vineyard owners. The first vinifera plantings in Washington State took place in 1876.
In the early 1900s, Sonoma was the viticultural center of California and the United States. French, Swiss and Italian winemakers greatly influenced the industry and wine quality improved--California wine was winning awards in Europe. With ratification of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution (Volstead Prohibition Enforcement Act) and the beginning of Prohibition in 1919 came the beginning of darkness for the industry. Some wineries survived by producing sacramental and medicinal wines; some vineyards were saved by selling grapes for home winemaking. There was a shift from quality grapes to those with high yields and fruit that survived shipping--petite sirah, carignane and alicante bouchet. Curiously, alcohol consumption, including home-produced wine, increased during Prohibition. Organized crime boomed and monopolized alcohol distribution.
Prohibition ended in 1933, but the wine industry was slow to recover as the nation had developed a preference for spirits. Professor William V. Cruess's
Principles and Practices of Winemaking helped producers move away from mostly sweet and fortified wines. Over the ensuing decades, a core of the UC Davis faculty, including Winkler, Olmo, Amerine, Singleton, Ough, Kunkee and Webb, played a central role in restoring the California wine industry and influenced generations of winemakers worldwide.
In 1936, Winkler began to develop his heat summation theory, categorizing climatic regions. By 1944, Winkler and Amerine had published their data, which was used to predict which varieties should be planted where. Tchelistcheff arrived in the Napa Valley via Russia and France in 1937 and was hired by de Latour of Beaulieu Vineyards. At that time winery problems included excessive sulfuring of harvested grapes, hot fermentations controlled by ice additions to vats, little sharing of knowledge among producers, stuck fermentations, volatile acidity and a limited market for American wines. In 1938 Tchelistcheff introduced coil refrigeration and was also the first to age wines in oak barriques--changes that took decades to gain acceptance.
In 1943 the Mondavi family acquired the Charles Krug Winery--a learning ground for the legendary Robert Mondavi. Other quality-minded producers included Mayacamas, Buena Vista, Martin Ray, Stony Hill, Inglenook and Louis Martini.
Joint efforts by industry and academia led to yeast research and the development of commercial yeast; clean, faultless, fruity varietal wines became the industry's goal.
In 1948 Zellerbach's Hanzell Winery was planted with pinot noir and chardonnay on slopes north of Sonoma. The cellar's temperature and humidity control mimicked burgundy. Hanzell produced the first quality chardonnay and laid the groundwork for the chardonnay boom some 20 years later. The 1950s brought a revival of the industry. Quality improved as plantings increased, and better winery hygiene, use of stainless-steel equipment, temperature control and commercial yeast came into greater acceptance.
The 1960s heralded the modern era of wine production with Heitz and Mondavi opening wineries in the Napa Valley. Mondavi embarked on vineyard and winery trials in a successful quest for quality. Chateau Ste-Michelle and Columbia Winery first put Washington State on the map.
Gallo greatly impacted the industry by introducing chablis blanc and hearty burgundy in 1964. While these wines did not have anything to do with Burgundy, they were clean, fruity, reasonably priced and an introduction to quality table wines for millions of Americans.
In 1973, an important year, Moet & Chandon began production of Chandon sparkling wine in Napa Valley and was the first champagne house in the United States. The 1973 vintage produced California wines that shook the wine world by winning the famed Paris tasting. This 1976 competition pitted California chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon against top wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux. The French judges ranked the 1973 Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon the top red and the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay the top white--creating a marketing bonanza for the California wine industry, which could then claim wine as fine as any in the world.
Lett and other pinot noir specialists established vineyards and wineries in Oregon during the early 1970s. Further California expansion took place in 1979 with Opus One, a joint venture between Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild. Producers from other parts of the world have followed with ventures in California, including Torres, Moueix, Perrin, Antinori and Southcorp.
Prices stagnated in the late 1980s as supply exceeded demand. A new strain of phylloxera--biotype-B--appeared in Napa Valley and spread throughout California and into Oregon. As most of California's vines were planted on AXR-1 or Vitis vinifera stock, this created much damage. Luckily, the spread of phylloxera and the time to vine death takes years, allowing for the existing vineyards to be ripped out and replanted with resistant rootstock. Producers faced enormous debts that forced them into partnerships and restructured corporations. In 1993 there were initial public offerings in Robert Mondavi Winery, with Berringer Wine Estates in 1995.
Replanting has afforded the opportunity to rethink--variety, clone, rootstock, spacing, trellising, aspect and irrigation, so quality should improve markedly. Meanwhile, quality and quantity improved in Oregon, Washington, New York (Finger Lakes and Long Island) and Virginia, and impressive efforts have come from New Mexico and Texas.
Production in the early 1990s gained momentum when economic expansion brought increased demand. After a flurry of reports on the benefits of moderate wine consumption, red wines, such as cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, zinfandel and, particularly, merlot, became especially popular with health-conscious consumers. With producers trying to hold onto export market gains and maintain dominance in domestic markets, some bought wine or vineyards in the Languedoc region, France, to help with production shortfalls. In spite of increased replanting costs, increased bordeaux prices and increased demand, record sales and record prices led to record profits.
Currently another threat looms, Pierce's disease, particularly because of a new vector, the glassy-winged sharpshooter. Previous epidemics of Pierce's disease occurred in 1892-1906 and the 1930s, wiping out thriving vineyards in Anaheim.
Despite some ideal climates for growing quality wine grapes, the American wine industry has had to grapple with many challenges. To date, the three "Ps," Prohibition, phylloxera and Pierce's disease, have been the most overpowering. California--the state and its wine industry--continues to be an innovative, dominant and resilient force. With a new wave of viticulture and a melding of the science and art of winemaking, the future of world-class wine from America appears to be a promising one.
From "Encyclopedia of Wine"
©Global Book Publishing Pty Limited 2000
Vintage Reports Vintage 2000 California - Bruce Cass CA vintage 2000 starts with a jolt - Bruce Cass Vintage 1999 - North America - Bruce Cass