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Monday Manifestos
The U. S. Wine Map Redrawn

By Stephen Eliot

There is simply no question that the world of fine wine is far bigger and infinitely more diverse place than it was a short generation back with new offerings from Australia, New Zealand, South America, South Africa and lesser-known areas of Europe and the United States vying for attention with those from classic regions that were once without competition or peer.

Many have claimed with real justification that it is simply impossible for the interested consumer to keep up with the hundreds, if not thousands, of new labels that now flood the market. The world of professional wine writing has accordingly gotten more demanding than ever, and more than a few of those in the business have suggested that individual journalistic success in the twenty-first century will be contingent upon the ability to specialize and speak with authority in less-than-global terms.

While I think that there is a bit of wisdom in such observations, the wine writer’s audience is ultimately so varied that there is room for generalists as well as those who have defined their own specific niche. It depends, I suppose, on just how detailed and specific the information that this or that reader requires.

We here at CGCW made the choice long ago to limit our focus to the wines of California and, to a more limited extent, to the Pacific Northwest and a selected few North American offerings emanating from points east. Even within our fairly well-defined venue, however, there have always been more than enough wines to keep our days filled, but, over the past several years, the number of new wines and wineries has grown by leaps and bounds and our office is so crowded with new samples to taste that navigation from desk to desk is at times hazardous.

We are fully aware from our practical day-to-day work that there are more wines than are easily managed, but a fascinating new interactive map recently found in the online business section of the New York Times provides startling insight as to just how much California and the rest of America is flexing its new vinicultural muscles.1 It is part of a piece entitled “A Nation of Wineries”, and, while the accompanying text leaves a great deal to be desired, the map is striking in its message. All wine-interested folk who wonder about the ways we have come and just where we might be going are encouraged to click on the link below.

I remember when a handful of producers from the Northwest were just starting to stake out their claims to seriousness and when wines from Michigan, Colorado and Texas were mere novelties. New York had a history of winemaking, but serious vinifera bottlings were far and few between, and Virginia was barely worth mention. It was not so long ago.

The roster of California wineries has grown from 700 to close to 4,000 in a mere generation. Those in Washington have increased by tenfold. Colorado now counts 128 instead of the 4 that were in business 25 years back, and similarly dramatic growth can be seen from Oregon to the Eastern seaboard. It is clear that America has enthusiastically embraced wine in a way and to an extent that few would have predicted.

More wines, of course, means that the critic’s days become necessarily longer, but if, as it appears, a new day has dawned, I for one cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings. I have always considered myself to be very lucky for having been around at the beginning of California’s heady rise to real vinous fame, and, while my excitement for California’s best bottlings continues to wax over time, I am equally eager and excited to see how the next chapter in fine American wine unfolds.



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For thirty-five years, Connoisseurs’ Guide has been the authoritative voice of the California wine consumer. With readers in all fifty states and twenty foreign countries, the Guide is valued by wine lovers everywhere for its honesty and for it strong adherence to the principles of transparency, unbiased, hard-hitting opinions. Now, it is becoming the California winelover’s most powerful online voice as well. And, our new features provide an unmatched array of advice and information for aficionados of every stripe.

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