With a book and subsequent film adaptation looming, the time has come to conclude. I humbly offer this brief rundown of standout wineries across the U.S.A.

January 07, 2015

Dan Dunn spent three months on a road trip across America to research his forthcoming book, American Wino: A Story of Reds, Whites and One Writer’s Blues on the Winey Road to Redemption (Dey Street Books/HarperCollins). This is the 12th and final dispatch regarding his journey.

I visited hundreds of wineries of all shapes and sizes while embarking upon the most epic oenophilic odyssey in American history. And what did I learn by doing so? Lots, probably. For instance, I now know that taking notes along the way would have been a swell idea. Another takeaway from the incredible journey: Mourvèdre makes me gassy.

I’ll be sharing similarly candid information in a forthcoming book scheduled to be released at the beginning of 2016. I don’t want to sound too cocky, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got an international best-seller on my hands. Just about all that stands between me and a triumphant promotional appearance on The Daily Show is stretching a few booze-addled thoughts scrawled on a bar napkin at 2 a.m. in Albuquerque into a coherent, 300-page manuscript. Piece of cake! Or, should I say, Cakebread (Zing! That’s a winery somewhere that I’m pretty sure I drove by).

With a book and subsequent film adaptation looming, the time has come to conclude. I humbly offer this brief rundown of standout wineries across the U.S.A:

McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks (Thurmond, NC)
Sean McRitchie cut his teeth in the vineyards of Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley, but he claims he didn’t truly come into his own as a winemaker until he relocated to the rugged foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. “I thought I was this tough guy, having worked in Oregon,” he said, “but the weather here is humbling. It’s tough to farm in North Carolina.” Tough indeed, which is all the more reason to be impressed by the delicious wine and hard cider produced at this family-owned and operated winery in the Yadkin Valley.mcritchiewine.com

St. Julian Winery (Paw Paw, MI)
One of Michigan’s oldest and best wineries was started back in 1921 by an Italian immigrant named Mariano Meconi. Today, they produce everything from raspberry wine to apple cider at St. Julian, but their most felicitous offerings are part of the Braganini Reserve Collection. I was particularly impressed with the Meritage, Riesling and Porpetto, an iced Traminette with an aromatic bouquet of peaches, mangos and lemon zest that has a long, fruity finish. stjulian.com

Chimney Rock (Stags Leap District, Napa Valley)Winemaker Elizabeth Vianna told me,Tthere is no better place to be on earth than a winery at harvest.” Truer words I’ve not heard spoken. Vianna also showed me the difference between a block of Sauvignon Gris grapes fermented with X5 yeast (funky grapefruit) versus CY3079 yeast (thicker mouthfeel, sweeter). So I got that going for me, too, which is nice. chimneyrock.com

Glenora Wine Cellars (Dundee, NY)New York’s Finger Lakes region poses a host of challenges to winemaking, from moist, humid days in the summer to the occasional deep freeze in the springtime. And while grape afflictions such as powdery mildew are “happy” there, according to Glenora’s winemaker Steve DiFrancesco, there’s no place else he’d rather ply his craft. “There’s viticultural diversity here you won’t find anywhere else,” he said, before ticking off a list of vinifera, hybrids and native grapes that thrive in the vineyards around Seneca Lake. DiFrancesco’s Pinot Blanc is a triple threat, comprised of juice fermented in three types of vessels: a concrete egg,; delicately flavored oak barrels; and a stainless steel tank. glenora.com

Duchman Family Winery (Driftwood, TX) Just one of many fantastic wineries scattered across Texas. Duchman winemaker Dave Reilly is convinced that the sky’s the limit for Italian varietals in the Lone Star State, and after tasting his award-winning Montepulciano and Aglianico, I’m inclined to believe him. As an added bonus, Duchman is located just minutes away from one of the world’s great BBQ meccas, The Salt Lick. duchmanwinery.com

Caduceus Cellars (Jerome, AZ) Maynard James Keenan makes music that stirs the soul, and wine that rocks people’s worlds. As Maynard himself has consistently said, Northern Arizona is a remarkable place to grow grapes. And no one has been doing it longer or better there than the Tool and A Perfect Circle frontman. The Caduceus tasting room in Jerome sits on one of the most picturesque hillsides in this or any other country. The wines they pour there rival the best in the world. caduceus.org

For more, follow Dan on Twitter @TheImbiber

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