One of the joys of being a wine journalist or writer is to be able to taste wines which may not be accessible to the regular wine drinkers. Therefore when the rare opportunity to taste some of the U.S West Coast wines came along, all roads led to ITC Grand Central Parel, Mumbai. The event organised by the American Consulate in Mumbai’s United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the tasting conducted by the Wine Ambassador of ITC Hotels, Sonal Holland was as an exclusive evening dedicated to just wines of the U.S West Coast. The event was also attended by Adam Branson, Senior Agricultural Attache, USDA and Melina Gomes, Deputy Media Advisor, U.S. Consulate General.
The journey of the American wine industry is interesting, mitigating and exemplary for the new world wine producing countries.
The first vine (European) was planted in the US soil during 1700s in the East Coast. That failed measurably only to be re-attempted a century later. The first successful wine production in the west coast (California) was in 1860. After becoming a victim of the notorious phylloxera that damaged most of the vineyards across continents in 1890s and the liquor prohibition in US between 1920-1933, wine production again kick-started in 1933. This was the time when the central valley produced sweet, fortified wines from indigenous grape varieties such as Clarets and Chablis. It was only after 1960s that Napa Valley started gaining popularity as a quality wine-producing region in the country with varietal labeling in practice.
But in 1976 a miracle happened. The legendary event that is known to every wine professional in the world, Judgment of Paris, changed the fate of the American wine industry forever. After that historic occurrence California emerged as one of the most promising wine producing regions in the world.
(To know more about ‘Judgment of Paris visit this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judgment_of_Paris_(wine)) or watch the movie Bottle Shock. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0914797/
The same year Bureau of Alcohol Firearms and Tobacco Trade (BAFTA) introduced the concept of American Viticulture Areas (AVA), which was the first step towards designing appellation system for the American wine producers to acknowledge wines coming from a special geographical area.
Since 1980s, with the growth of Gallo wines many more iconic names have joined the cult wines status. At present US is the 4th largest wine producer in the world with 62% of its wines coming from its top producers such as E&J Gallo, The Wine Company, Constellation and Jackson Family wines.
United States has four prominent wine estates, Washington, Oregon, New York and California. The most renowned, California region produces 95% of the total wine production in US. Benefited mostly of its geographical locations-closer coastline, warm days and cold nights. California is known for its Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc (Fume Blanc) in whites and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel (indigenous grape variety) and Syrah in black grapes. North Coast region consists of Sonoma County, Napa County and Mendocino County. While the Napa County is divided in two parts Napa valley and Carneros, these two regions have a reputation of producing quality Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir and chardonnay. Sonoma County is divided into three parts, Alexander Valley (Cabernet Sauvignon), Dry Creek Valley (Zinfandel) and Russian River Valley (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, sparkling wines).
Central Coast mainly consists of Monterey County (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), San Luis Obispa County (Paso Robles, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah) and Santa Barbara County famous for Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir.
Central Valley region is know for Lodi which is house to some high volume and big brands such as Gallo, Woodbridge and Sutter Home. The region produces almost all international varieties and Zinfandel.
Pacific North West has Washington State and Oregon State. Columbia Valley and Yakima Valley in Washington State are known for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Oregon’s Willamette Valley produces quality Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.
Here is a list of wines tasted at the event.
NAME COMPANY/REGION IMPORTER
Honig Sauvignon Blanc (2012) Rutherford, Napa Valley Wine Park
Patz & Hall Chardonnay (2011) Sonoma Coast Wine Park
Kendall Jackson Vintners
Reserve Pinot Noir Mendocino County Brindco
Kendall Jackson Vintners
Reserve Zinfandel Mendocino County Brindco
Erath Pinot Gris Ste Michelle Wine Estates, Oregon state Brindco
Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot Washington States Brindco