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Good US wines are hard to find

Many excellent wines are produced in the United States. California produces some outstanding wines that rival the best French, Italian and German vintages. Unfortunately, most US restaurants offer only a limited selection of mediocre wines. Most waiters and beverage store clerks do not understand wine and cannot recommend the best choices. The favorite wine offering in US restaurants is white Zinfandel, a low quality sweet wine. Only better quality restaurants offer a good selection of quality wines.

Napa Valley, California © Corel
Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, the most famous wine regions of California, produce many different varieties and different grades of wine.

California is the premier Wine country

Every state in the USA produces some wines. Most of the states produce at least a few good wines. Only California, Oregon and Washington states produce many excellent wines including some outstanding ones. California is the top producer of wines in the USA with thousands of wineries and many varieties of excellent wines.

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The top California wines

California is blessed with a wonderful climate and geography that makes it an ideal place to grow many varieties of wine grapes. California Cabernet Sauvignon is the famous full-bodied red wine made from the traditional Bordeaux grape. California Chardonnay, made from the same grapes used in French White Burgundy and Champagne, is a wonderful dry white wine of excellent flavor and complexity.

Wine Grape © Corel
California is blessed with a wonderful climate and geography that makes it an ideal place to grow many varieties of wine grapes.

Red Zinfandel, a real American wine

The Zinfandel grape is a uniquely American wine grape that was probably imported to the USA at least 200 years ago. These grapes are unfortunately used to make a lot of very popular mediocre sweet Rosé wines called "White Zinfandel" or "Blush Zinfandel". Red Zinfandel wines are medium to full-bodied red wines with wonderfully complex berry flavors. Some of them are outstanding and they are frequently bargain priced at many fine restaurants.

Other wine values

Some excellent Pinot Noir is available from Northern California and Oregon. Wonderful light, white wines are made from Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc grapes in California, Oregon and Washington. Washington state also produces some excellent white Rieslings similar to the finer German wines. California produces good Sparkling wines, and many California wineries are beginning to produce some typical Rhone and Italian varieties such as Grenache, Gamay and Sangiovese.

Choosing the best wines

It is very difficult to choose the best quality wines in the US except by knowing the reputation of the wine producers. The concept of terroir is not used in US wine making. Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, the most famous wine regions of California, produce many different varieties and different grades of wine. Vintage years are not very important in California as some great wines are usually produced every year. Price is definitely not a reliable indicator of quality or value. If you are not familiar with the names of the better wine producers in the US, ask a knowledgeable waiter or specialty wine store sales clerk for advice.

Wine Prices

The best wines are usually available for purchase at specialty wine stores, but not in supermarkets or local small beverage stores. They are also available in finer restaurants but at double the store price. Common table wines sell for $5 to $10 a liter and some of them can be suprisingly good. Fine wines of excellent quality can be purchased for $10 to $20 a liter if you know which producers offer the best value. The top quality wines sell for $20 or more per liter.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Michelle Leco / USATourist.com
Photo Description: California vineyard