California as a wine producing region has grown in size and importance considerably over the past couple of centuries, and today is the proud producer of more than ninety percent of the United States' wines. Indeed, if California was a country, it would be the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, with a vast range of vineyards covering almost half a million acres. The secret to California's success as a wine region has a lot to do with the high quality of its soils, and the fact that it has an extensive Pacific coastline which perfectly tempers the blazing sunshine it experiences all year round. The winds coming off the ocean cool the vines, and the natural valleys and mountainsides which make up most of the state's wine regions make for ideal areas in which to cultivate a variety of high quality grapes. Of all the New World wine countries, perhaps the one which has demonstrated the most flair for producing high quality wines - using a combination of traditional and forward-thinking contemporary methods - has been the United States of America. For the past couple of centuries, the United States has set about transforming much of its suitable land into vast vineyards, capable of supporting a wide variety of world-class grape varietals which thrive on both the Atlantic and the Pacific coastlines. Of course, we immediately think of sun-drenched California in regards to American wines, with its enormous vineyards responsible for the New World's finest examples of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based wines, but many other states have taken to viticulture in a big way, with impressive results. Oregon, Washington State and New York have all developed sophisticated and technologically advanced wine cultures of their own, and the output of U.S wineries is increasing each year as more and more people are converted to their produce.
Whether you believe that Zinfandel traces its origins to the Italian Primitivo or the Croatian Plavac Mali, we can still consider this America's own. With rare exceptions, the U.S. is the only growing region in the world to explore its "noble" potential. It is grown through California as one of the most widely planted varietals, and can be "white", red, rose, fortified, late harvest or even sparkling. Even as a dry red table wine, it is made in a myriad of styles and varies greatly as the growing conditions and climate changes from region to region. It is generally full-bodied and potent, with a burly, brambly quality, and can provide a veritable fruit basket of raspberries, blackberries, dark cherries and plums. It can be made claret-like and intensely powerful and structured, with high alcohol, or more refined and elegant. It always maintains a modicum of acidity, making it wonderfully adaptable to food. The finest Zinfandel appellations include the Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Howell Mountain, Alexander Valley, Amador County, Napa Valley, Paso Robles and the Central Coast.