The Question of Local Wine

drink localVirtually every state in the U.S is now making wine. I haven’t tasted wine in every state yet but I’m working on it. Of course we know that California, Oregon, and Washington State make great wine. But I’ve had wines from Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Missouri, New Mexico and North Carolina that were quite enjoyable.

Assuming they are of good quality, there are good reasons for people to drink wines from the region they live in. It’s satisfying to know the people who make the wine you drink and it’s important to support your local economy. A wine industry is a benefit for any community, enhancing its charm and providing locals and visitors with the kind of cultural experiences that make life worth living. “Drink local!” is a moral obligation if you’re a wine lover and you care about your community.

But what about wine lovers from other parts of the country. I am based in San Diego where we have both a local wine industry and access to thousands of quality California wines. For $15 at a good wine shop I can find any number of quality wines from the top wine regions in the world. Is there any reason for me to drink Texas or Arizona wine, especially when I will have to pay $30 for their premium wines? Yes, Texas and Arizona make some good Cabernet. But is it different enough from a Napa Cab that it’s worth the time and expense to seek it out?

The answer to this question is “yes” if winemakers are capturing something distinctive about their local soils, climate, or culture that I cannot get elsewhere. But that requires a willingness to seek out that distinctiveness and to make a commitment to quality that can be costly, time consuming, and requires great talent. Too often I find wineries are just making wine—generic, competent, but no better than what I can find at the grocery store. If they are successful serving their local market that’s fine. But if these new wine regions are to get on the wine map and gain a national or international reputation they will have to offer something I can’t find at Whole Foods.

I’m parked on the Western slope of the Rockies about to devote a week to tasting Colorado wines before heading for Virginia and then New York’s Finger Lakes, all regions aspiring to be recognized for their wine. And the question I will be asking is whether I’ve tasted this before.



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