California may be the first place you think of when it comes to American wine, but it shouldn't be the last. There are licensed wineries operating in all 50 states, with many making wine of a quality that producers could only dream of 10 or 20 years ago. The learning curve is steep, but good, local wine is clearly becoming an all-American tradition.
Up-And-Coming Regions The news is out about Washington (mostly for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) and Oregon (mainly for Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris), but regions such as Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula and north central Virginia also show promise.
Buying Tips Wines from small producers in emerging American regions don't generally have wide national distribution; if you can't find a particular bottle at your local merchant, log on to the winery's Web site to see if the producer can (legally) ship directly to you.
10 TOP BOTTLES
ARIZONA 2001 Callaghan Back Lot Cuvee ($25) Winemaker Kent Callaghan blends Mourvèdre, Syrah and Zinfandel for this juicy, harmonious red.
MICHIGAN 2001 Black Star Farms Arcturos Pinot Gris ($13) This sprawling agricultural and tourist operation in Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula makes a Pinot Gris in a fruity, light style with apricot and melon flavors.
NEW MEXICO Gruet Brut Nonvintage ($13) This dry sparkling wine from New Mexico is a familiar name on restaurant wine lists nationwide. Made using the méthode champenoise with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, it has a spare, crisp edge.
NEW YORK 2000 Wölffer Estate Selection Merlot ($35) This Long Island red is as polished as the winery's owner, Christian Wölffer. It is supple and soft, with pure flavors of black cherry and plum.
OREGON 2001 Ponzi Tavola Pinot Noir ($15) Luisa Ponzi, the daughter of Oregon Pinot pioneer Richard Ponzi, has created an accessible and affordable version of Ponzi's superb reserve Pinot Noir.
PENNSYLVANIA 2001 Chaddsford Philip Roth Vineyard Chardonnay ($40) Portnoy would never complain about this generous, mouth-filling wine from the Brandywine Valley.
RHODE ISLAND 2001 Sakonnet Vineyards Vidal Blanc ($9) Winemaker Christian Butzke, a former enology professor at UC Davis, packs an impressive amount of flavor and intensity into this light- to medium-bodied white.
TEXAS 2001 Becker Vineyards Cabernet-Syrah ($25) You wouldn't normally associate the Lone Star state with cool-climate varieties like Cabernet, but Becker coaxes superspicy blackberry flavor out of the grape to create this very pretty wine.
VIRGINIA 2001 Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve ($20) Easily mistaken for a Bordeaux, this Cabernet Franc has the scale, the texture and even some of the length of a good St-Émilion but with its own expansive fruit character.
WASHINGTON STATE 2001 L'Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Sémillon Barrel Fermented ($15) This Walla Walla-based producer makes a succulent, soft white with a lively lift and intriguing flavors of herb and melon.